From the outset of Wednesday, it was destined to be a good day for the London Lightning.
The Lightning hosted “Be a Champ” day inside the Budweiser Gardens, an event for the Thames Valley District School Board. Lightning guard Ryan Anderson showcased his talents for the audience, putting together a spectacular singing performance and showing that he is much more than just a sharp-shooter from long distance.
Then, in the pre-game ceremonies, the Lightning Dance Pack aided in a wedding proposal that had everyone in a good mood before the game started. NBL Canada ambassador Saidat was surprised by her partner as the dancers did a performance to Bruno Mars’ ‘Marry You’.
She said yes, and the night was already off to a good start.
London was looking for one more win on their home court before heading off on a week-long road trip to the East Coast. They were taking on a Niagara River Lions team who was on a bit of a roll, going 9-5 since their coaching change that saw them promote Grace Lokole from assistant to head coach.
London came out on fire, opening the game on an 11-0 run, and never looked back The Lightning led from wire-to-wire, cruising to the 115-94 win over the River Lions to send them off to the East Coast riding a two-game winning streak.
During London’s 11-0 run to open the game, Anderson hit a pair of three pointers to get things started on the right note. Travis Releford hit a pair of free throws at the 9:29 mark to get the River Lions on the board.
Later, a three from Sammy Zeglinski and a layup from Tramar Sutherland on the next possession got the River Lions to within 8, but Anderson responded with a jumper of his own to push the lead back to double-figures.
As the quarter wore on, the lead would stretch to as many as 18 points for the Lightning. Adam Blazek hit a three to bring Niagara back to within 15, and the River Lions would use a 6-0 run in the closing minutes to cut the deficit to 35-27 at the end of quarter one.
London held onto the lead in the second quarter, despite the River Lions mounting a serious push in the later minutes. With 2:06 to play on the clock in the first half, Sutherland connected on a three pointer to cut London’s lead down to a single point, at 53-52. Tyshawn Patterson responded for Lightning, making a layup to push the lead back to 3.
As the first half came to an end, the Lightning let out a sigh of relief as they dodged a bullet. Niagara threatened, but London weathered the storm and took a 57-52 lead into the locker room.
B.J. Monteiro got the second half started for the River Lions, opening the scoring with a layup to cut the deficit to three. once again, London has an answer, and Akeem Wright made a layup of his own and the lead was back to five.
Stephen Maxwell threw down one of several vicious dunks to help London restore a six-point lead, and that was the start of things to come in the quarter. Anderson hit a jumper a few possessions later to give London an 11-point lead with 4:30 to play, at 75-64.
Before the half was out, all eyes were on Patterson. He made back-to-back layups to push the Lightning lead to 14. Then, on the defensive end of the floor, he went for a steal and it was just out of his reach and went out of bounds off his fingers. He proceeded to bang his hand off the scorer’s table in self frustration, which knocked out the score clock on a pair of occasions.
Despite the missed steal, everything else seemed to go right for the Lightning on Wednesday night. They took a 16-point lead into the final frame, and never looked back.
For the first time in what seems like forever, forward Taylor Black checked into the game for the Lightning with 2:49 to play in the game. On their first possession, Black got the ball in the post and showed some nice footwork to spin off the defender and get the finger roll to fall.
Later, he tried to throw down a dunk off a miss, only to have the ball slip out of his hands and go out of bounds. The team laughed it off, as the game itself was a bit of a laugher with the exception of a few minutes in the second quarter.
The Lightning led the game from wire-to-wire, cruising to the 115-94 win over the visiting Niagara River Lions.
For the visiting Niagara River Lions, talented forward Logan Stutz was held in check for what seemed like the entire game. Stutz only played a shade over 24 minutes, recording 6 points and 7 rebounds while committing 6 turnovers.
Travis Releford scored a team-high 18 points, while Tramar Sutherland added 16 points of his own in the loss.
It was a near-perfect night for the London Lightning, and a wire-to-wire win was a great way to cap off an exciting day inside Budweiser Gardens. Ryan Anderson led the way, scoring a game-high 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for the double-double. He also added 5 assists and 3 steals for an all-round stellar performance.
Stephen Maxwell recorded another double-double, scoring 18 points and pulling down 12 rebounds while recording 4 assists and 4 steals, and Akeem Wright scored 22 points in the win.
Wright went 2-of-4 from three point range, ending his 0-for-15 drought combined over the previous two games.
The win sends the London Lightning (21-10) off on their week-long road trip on a two-game winning streak. The Lightning will head to the East Coast for four games in seven days, including games on three consecutive days over the weekend, starting Friday against the Saint John Mill Rats.
With the loss, the Niagara River Lions (14-19) fall to 9-6 since hiring Grace Lokole as their head coach. Their next two games are against the Orangeville A’s.