River Lions shoot down Scarborough
EJ Onu made the most of his limited time on the court for the Niagara River Lions Sunday afternoon.
The 6-foot-11 forward played just more than 15 minutes but contributed 15 points, seven rebounds, an assist and a blocked shot as the Niagara River Lions topped the visiting Scarborough Shooting Stars 99-89 in Canadian Elite Basketball League action in St. Catharines.
Onu, who led the league in blocked shots last season and is No. 1 again so far this year, admitted that aspect of his game is his trademark.
“Blocking shots is what I enjoy,” the 23-year-old native of Ohio said. “I love making threes but blocking shots is my pride and joy. That’s my bread and butter.”
Onu and fellow big man Eddie Ekiyor formed a dynamic duo down low with Ekiyor adding eight points and eight boards.
“We haven’t had a game in a while where both Eddie (Ekiyor) both contributed big and we did tonight,” River Lions coach Victor Raso said.
Onu netted nine of his points from beyond the arc.
“It helps a lot, especially when he’s making shots,” Raso said of Onu’s offensive contributions.
The River Lions lead the league in points per game and Onu said a big reason for that is the talent in the backcourt.
“We have a lot of unselfish guards so everyone gets a touch, everyone gets to score so it’s really good for us,” he said.
Raso said the River Lions are at their best offensively when they execute based on matchups.
“Our offensive philosophy is to play through matchups. Whether it’s our best player or a guy on the other team we feel we can attack, it’s their responsibly to either score, draw two, and then if we space properly, then usually guys find each other,” he said.
The victory was the fourth straight for Niagara which improved to 9-6 with five regular season games to play.
“We definitely have room for improvement but growing up you play Sunday games, the fifth game of a weekend in a tournament and that’s kind of what it felt like,” Raso said. “It took us a while to get our communication and intensity up. The guys are tired and I felt like it’s two nights in a row where when it got tough, we got super-fundamental and starting rebounding.”
The River Lions led 88-85 going into the ELAM ending and wrapped up the win in style when Khalim Ahmed, who led all scorers with 31 points, set up a flying TJ Lall for the game-winning dunk that brought the house down.
“I saw the defender coming and I just wanted to end the game,” Lall said after the game. “So I went [to the hoop] as hard as I could.”
The River Lions will now take two complete days off before reconvening Wednesday when they will head to Toronto to support teammate Aiden Warnholtz who is playing for Team Canada at the U-23 championships.
River Lions 98 Shooting Stars 89
BPSN Player of the Game: Niagara’s Khalil Ahmad with 31 points.
For the Niagara River Lions: Ahmad 31; EJ Onu 15; Kimbal Mackenzie 12; Jahvon Blair 11.
For the Scarborough Shooting Stars: David Muenkat 21; Kassius Robertson 17; Kyree Walker 17.
Game stats: Shooting percentage: Niagara 50, Scarborough 41. Free throws: Niagara 21-26, Scarborough 10-19. Rebounds: Niagara 29, Scarborough 20. Turnovers: Niagara 13, Scarborough 9.
Up next: Niagara (9-6) visits Scarborough Sunday, July 15 and Ottawa Thursday, July 20 before returning home Sunday, July 23 versus Ottawa at 3 p.m.
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