River Lions fall to Shooting Stars
The Niagara River Lions’ Canadian Elite Basketball League record sits at 9-7 following a 90-84 road loss to the Scarborough Shooting Stars Sunday afternoon.
Niagara is at the first-place Ottawa Blackjacks (12-5) Thursday before hosting the Blackjacks Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Meridian Centre.
“We had a bit of a different lineup. E.J. Onu signed a contract over in Germany and he is done for the year with us,” River Lions head coach/GM Victor Raso said. “We brought in a new American to play Lloyd Pandi’s position because Lloyd hurt his knee and he is out for two or three weeks.”
The personnel issues couldn’t have come at a worse time for Niagara, which came into Sunday’s encounter with a four-game winning streak.
“These last seven days we were rolling and then our world kind of got flipped on its head a bit,” Raso said. “Last (Sunday) night I thought we played really hard and we did really well in spurts. We did enough to win but we have organizational things that we need to clear up. We had a lot of empty possessions on offence and a lot of that was because we had new guys in new positions.
“We played hard and gave ourselves a chance to win but those guys made some tough shots and we had one of our worst shooting games all year.”
It is now onward and upward for Niagara.
“It was kind of a tuneup game for the last four because the last four games for us are huge. We still have the opportunity to finish first.”
Raso admits feeling a little frustrated with the departure of Onu.
“The E.J. one was tough because it happened less than 48 hours before our transaction deadline and we needed to replace him quickly. Luckily Shawn Occeus was available,” Raso said. “He was with us for four games last year and I am very comfortable with him. He is a good basketball player and he was available so we were able to get him in.”
Occeus made his debut Sunday and had nine points and three rebounds in 16.58 minutes of playing time.
“We need a full week to get back to where we were. It is frustrating but it is the reality of the world sometimes,” Raso said. “It always seems to be difficult for us down the stretch the past three years. Things haven’t gone our way but I am hopeful we have enough time this time the this will be the group that finishes at the end. I think we will be OK but, for sure, I wish this didn’t happen.”
Niagara led Scarborough 24-23 after one quarter but the Shooting Stars build second- and third-quarter leads of 40-37 and 65-58.
Top scorers for Niagara were Edward Ekiyor (16), Khalil Ahmad (15), Antonio Davis Jr. (13) and Jahvon Henry-Blair (10).
Cat Barber led all scorers with 28 points and former River Lion Kassius Robertson added 18 for Scarborough.