River Lions win championship rematch
The visiting Niagara River Lions took care of business on two fronts last Saturday night against the Edmonton Stingers.
Niagara earned revenge from a loss in last season’s Canadian Elite Basketball League championship game and, in the process, rebounded from a disappointing season-opening 92-89 road loss to the Saskatchewan Rattlers on Wednesday.
“All the stuff I talked about after the first game, the guys responded in a big way,” said Victor Raso, the team’s head coach and co-GM.
The performance was a far cry from Wednesday’s debacle.
“We didn’t play with a sense of accountability that we preached in training camp. The bullets started firing and we kind of lost our fundamentals,” he said. “Then we spent two days talking about it and we got back to it. That was good because I thought we had been pretty solid throughout training camp.”
Raso felt his team wasn’t great against Edmonton but it did play better.
“We were committed to playing a specific way and we did a great job on the D (defensive) boards. Our numbers were a lot better but we have a long way to go on offence and we have to make sure we are all on the same page,” he said. “Offence is more of a journey than defence and I was pretty happy with the bounce back, but it is a long season.”
Learning from adversity early in the season is anything but bad.
“It is a good thing if you learn from it. The way we lost that first game, if you don’t learn from it, it is a terrible loss,” Raso said. “If you learn from it and it sets us on the right path, then it is a great learning opportunity.”
Leading the way for Niagara against the Stingers were: Khalil Ahmad with 22 points, five rebounds and five assists; EJ Onu with 14 points and five rebounds; Munis Tutu with 14 points and four rebounds off the bench; and, Jaylen Babb-Harrison with 12 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Aher Uguak led Edmonton 20 points and Jordan Baker contributed six points and 12 rebounds.
Next up for Niagara is a Tuesday road game at Guelph.
‘We have to demand more of the same and it cannot be like it was in Saskatchewan,” Raso said. “We have too many guys and we are too deep to play like we did continuously in Edmonton. If our defence continues to build, our offence will catch up to it. Today is two weeks from when we all met each other so there is a ton of room for growth.”
Niagara hosts the expansion Montreal Alliance in its home opener Friday at 7 p.m. at the Meridian Centre.
“I think the guys are really excited. We were in Saskatchewan’s and Edmonton’s home opener and now we have to go to Guelph,” Raso said.
Niagara players got a taste of what to expect at a season ticket holder’s event on Sunday.
“They got to meet a lot of fans and see the excitement for the River Lions in the region,” he said. “I am super pumped for them because most of them don’t know what it is like to play a game at the Meridian Centre. They don’t have the feeling of the juice in the building and it will be fun to hopefully come home 2-1. I am excited for the guys to experience it.”
Season tickets, voucher packs, marquee matchup packs, group tickets, and single game tickets are on sale now. Visit www.riverlions.ca/tickets for more information.