River Lions advance to semifinals
The Niagara River Lions advanced to the Canadian Elite Basketball League semifinals with a 99-78 triumph over the Guelph Nighthawks Saturday. File photo: BILL POTRECZ
The Niagara River Lions advanced to the Canadian Elite Basketball League semifinals next weekend in Ottawa with a convincing 99-78 triumph over the Guelph Nighthawks Saturday night at the Sleeman Centre in Guelph.
The second-seeded River Lions were the home team but the game was played in Guelph due the Meridian Centre being in use for the Canada Summer Games.
Niagara earned a bye into the quarter-finals with their 13-7 record. They closed out the regular season with an 83-79 win over the Hamilton Honey Badgers on July 31.
E.J. Onu paced the River Lions with 28 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots.
“He was great,” Niagara coach Victor Raso said of Onu. “Kind of a breakthrough game. We kind of felt that was coming. He was really good for the past week or so.”
The River Lions trailed 22-17 after one quarter but rebounded with a big second quarter to lead 53-44 at the half. Niagara put the game away in the final 10 minutes outscoring Guelph 25-16.
“Good individual defence and then good team defence,” Raso said when asked about the game. “The guys did a good job of understanding our plan and that’s the biggest thing. Guys are starting to figure out how to execute the game plan offensively and defensively.”
Raso feels the team is peaking at the right time.
“The guys are coming together,” he said. “Those three losses were big for us because they were important games for us and the other teams too but we needed to figure out who were were and I think we are definitely coming together at the right time so I’m excited for next weekend.”
The River Lions leave Tuesday for Ottawa where they will face the winner of Sunday’s quarter-final Scarborough and Saskatchewan.
Khalil Ahmed and Daniel Walden-Mullings added 14 each for the River Lions who out-rebounded the Nighthawks 42-31 and shot 55 per cent from the floor compared to 39 per cent for Guelph.
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