By Justine Jones - July 31, 2021
The Guelph Nighthawks (3-8) led from the first quarter right through the Elam Ending, securing a 92-81 win over the Niagara River Lions (6-4).
With the victory, the Nighthawks pull two games ahead of the Saskatchewan Rattlers (1-10) for the sixth and final playoff spot.
Guelph started off strong on both ends of the court. The Nighthawks outrebounded Niagara 16-10 in the first quarter, and these second chance points led to high percentage opportunities in the paint. Guelph opened up a nine-point lead after one quarter and a six-point lead at half-time thanks to 24 points in the paint, compared to Niagara’s 14.
“I think it always helps to get off to a good start but we’ve just been playing better,”
said head coach Charles Kissi.
“Our record doesn’t show it but we’ve been getting better every time and I think that’s all we’re focused on. We know we’re playing for the playoffs so our job is to be ready for then.”
Michael Bryson made his CEBL season debut on Tuesday night against the Hamilton Honey Badgers. The six-foot-four guard scored 13 points in the loss, and in tonight’s contest he nearly surpassed this total with 12 points in the first half alone. Bryson hit back-to-back three-pointers in the opening quarter to help Guelph stretch its lead, and registered a three-point play in the second frame to help halt a River Lions run. The former Delaware Blue Coat was the Nighthawks’ second leading scorer, finishing with 19 points.
“I was just getting in rhythm with the team, getting my legs underneath me (last game),”
“I think my first game I was hunting a lot more, and second game I think shots came a little more simpler, the flow of the offence was smoother (today) and I was able to make more reads.”
A strong start to the second half helped the Nighthawks open up a 14-point lead heading into the final quarter. Cat Barber had nine points in the frame, and finished with 20 points on the night. Between Barber finishing at the rim, and solid interior play by Matt Neufeld (who registered 13 points in the win), Guelph outscored Niagara 54-36 in the paint and this proved to be the difference tonight.
The River Lions found themselves with a deficit to overcome early on, but a 17-9 run to start the second quarter helped Niagara cut the Nighthawks’ lead to one point. This run was largely fuelled by Phil Scrubb who hit two three-pointers and Lloyd Pandi who went to the free-throw line on back-to-back possessions. As a collective, Niagara made hard cuts to the basket. This, along with some quick passes down low helped the River Lions get to the free-throw line 12 times in the first half compared to only one trip to the stripe for the Nighthawks. Overall, the River Lions were active on defence, forcing nine second quarter Guelph turnovers and this energy helped Niagara on the offensive end.
With Xavier Sneed having departed to join the Charlotte Hornets in the NBA Summer League and Javin DeLaurier sidelined for tonight’s game, new opportunities were presented to players including Olu Ashaolu and the aforementioned Phil Scrubb. Ashaolu opened the game with a slick baseline move and an emphatic dunk, and totaled 12 points in the loss. Scrubb scored the bulk of his points from beyond the arc and led all River Lions with 20 points on the night.
Phil’s Scrubb’s brother, Thomas, made his season debut for the Nighthawks tonight and was able to integrate seamlessly into the lineup. The veteran guard finished with 13 points in 24 minutes of action and will look to provide the River Lions with a boost as they head into the playoffs.
“Our guys will bounce back, we have a good group of guys, but they need to compete harder from the start. That team was better than us tonight but Sunday can be different,”
said head coach Victor Raso.
“You have to be up for every single game in this league, and if you’re not up for it, you’re going to get beat.”
The Niagara River Lions (6-4) will have their chance at revenge when they play the Guelph Nighthawks (3-8) in the second half of this home-and-home series on Sunday, August 1 at 2:00 p.m. ET at the Sleeman Centre.
All CEBL games will be available for live streaming on the CEBL’s new OTT streaming service, CEBL+, cbcsports.ca, the free CBC Gem streaming service, the CBC Sports App for iOS and android devices, and on Twitch.
A league created by Canadians for Canadians, the CEBL has the highest percentage of Canadian players of any professional league in the country, with 75 percent of its current rosters being Canadians. Players bring experience from the NBA, NBA G League, top international leagues, the Canadian National team program, and top NCAA programs as well as U SPORTS. The only First Division Professional League Partner of Canada Basketball, the CEBL season typically runs from May through August. Head to CEBL.ca for more information or follow us on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook & YouTube.