River Lions thump Rattlers
Guillaume Payen-Boucard has become a fixture on the Niagara River Lions pro basketball team.
The 31-year-old Montreal native is in his fourth season with the Canadian Elite Basketball League team and he sees a lot of similarities with this year’s squad and the one he played with in his second season in St. Catharines.
“We just have good cohesion and we play hard,” he said Tuesday, following the River Lions’ 86-69 victory over the visiting Saskatchewan Rattlers (0-9). “We make a lot of mistakes but we play with a lot of energy, everybody likes each other and you can tell on the court. It’s fun to play.”
Niagara improved to 5-3 with the win and Payen-Boucard sees good things ahead for his team.
“We have to be sharper and execute better,” the 6-foot-6 forward said. “Sometimes we go away from our plan and our execution is a little off. We need to be solid for 40 minutes and I think we will be in a good spot.”
Payen-Boucard was delighted to see former Carleton Raven Philip Scrubb make his debut for the River Lions. Scrubb, who just finished his season with Limoges of the France-Jeep Elite Pro A where he averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 assists, 2.1 rebounds in 34 games, scored three points and dished out five assists in just under 17 minutes of playing time.
“He is a willing passer, he makes great passes, he has great vision and he calms the game down a little bit for us,” he said. “He helps us find the right play on offence.”
Payen-Boucard and Scrubb played together for four years at Carleton and he’s very familiar with his game.
“He was a little faster before but he is still the same,” Payen-Boucard said, with a laugh. “He makes the right play and he makes almost no mistakes and that is something that I am trying to learn from him; be solid and try to limit the turnovers.
“Obviously I am going to look up to him and ask him for his advice as I try to get better in my career.”
Payen-Boucard would love to be able to pass like Scrubb.
“Especially with the left hand,” he said. “It is frustrating when you play against him because he is a righty and he can pass way better with his left hand. It is tough to guard.”
River Lions head coach Victor Raso played two years with Scrubb at Carleton, winning a pair of national championships and serving as co-captains in Scrubb’s final year. He has seen Scrubb evolve into an even better player.
“Physically he is much stronger and he is just more polished. Everything he did back then he does now at a better level,” Raso said. “Phil was one of the best if not the best university basketball player in this country.”
Raso sees Scrubb as a finished product.
“Phil has a really high level professional career and he will go back overseas and make a lot of money. He will keep doing that, ride off into the sunset and maybe come back and play for the River Lions every year.”
Raso had no hesitation putting Scrubb in the lineup despite not having practised with the team.
“He is what we haven’t had all year. We have been getting by without a true passer and someone who can really come off a ball screen and throw the proper pass at a really high level,” he said. “He cares about everybody else almost more than himself and I am going to let him be him but I am going to encourage him to shoot. Phil is a 45 per cent three-point shooter and when he comes off those ball screens, he has to shoot them a little bit more.”
Payen-Boucard point to Niagara’s defence when talking about the squad this season.
“We are just trying to find our identity through our defence. I think that is where we find the most energy and that’s where we score easily on our defence and in transition,” he said. “We still have to clean up a few things on offence but we were better, we moved the ball better and we have to keep setting a standard on defending home court.”
Raso felt his team played well Tuesday.
“Defensively we had some moments when we weren’t fundamental enough and I think that our team understands how we need to play, they understand the mistakes that we make defensively, and how when we don’t make mistakes defensively, we are really, really good,” he said. “I was little upset with them at halftime. We only gave up 32 points but we could have held them in the 20s and that is kind of our identity.”
Saskatchewan head coach Conor Dow thought his team battled hard in the loss.
“It just comes down to executing. We knew how they were going to guard us and we need to execute our game plan just a little bit better.”
River Lions 86 Rattlers 69
BPSN Player of the Game:Niagara’s Xavier Sneed 14 points, five assists, three rebounds and a team-high plus 17 rating.
For the Niagara River Lions: Jaylen Babb-Harrison 25; Javin DeLaurier 17; Sneed 14; Lloyd Pandi 13.
For the Saskachewan Rattlers: Devonte Bandoo 23; Nervens Demosthene 11.
Game stats: Rebounds: River Lions 34, Rattlers 33. Field goal percentage: River Lions 52.5 per cent, Rattlers 40-.5 per cent. Turnovers: River Lions 13, Rattlers 15. Free throws: River Lions 15-21, Rattlers 15-25.
Up next: The River Lions host the Ottawa BlackJacks Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Meridian Centre.