Shooting Stars end River Lions’ season
The Niagara River Lions saw their Canadian Elite Basketball League season come to a disappointing end with a 93-81 semifinal loss to the Scarborough Shooting Stars Friday afternoon in Ottawa.
The second-place River Lions got off to a great start against third-place Scarborough, grabbing a 26-14 lead after one quarter but they let the Shooting Stars off the hook. Scarborough cut the lead to 35-33 by halftime, led 60-56 after three quarters and went into Elam ending time with a commanding 83-66 advantage. Niagara cut the lead to 89-81 on a three-point shot by EJ Onu before the Shooting Stars closed the game out by scoring the last four points.
“We executed our game plan to start and we were playing with the right aggression and then we got complacent,” River Lions head coach and co-GM Victor Raso said. “We had an opportunity to kind of expand our lead and blow the game open. We had them right where we wanted to and we got too cute. We turned the ball over a bunch, we stopped executing, we took it easy on defensive rebounds, all the stuff that we needed to do consistently for 40 minutes, we didn’t do for the second quarter.”
That second-quarter lull gave Scarborough life.
“They are a really, really talented team if you give a talented team like that life down the stretch,” he said. “They can make plays, they can make shots and we knew they could do that. But if things were difficult for them the way it was early, then they don’t have a ton of answers because they have a group of guys who haven’t played together long.”
It was a tough pill for Raso to swallow.
“We took our foot off the gas and it is disappointing that it kind of came down to an opportunity to put them away and we didn’t do it. We didn’t do it and it is really frustrating.”
Earlier in the season, Raso had described Scarborough as the most talented team in the league.
Its roster includes: point guard Jalen Harris, who was drafted into the NBA and scored 31 points in an NBA game for the Raptors two years ago; former River Lion Kassius Robertson; big man Kyle Alexander, who just signed to play in the EuroLeague, the top league in the world next to the NBA; and, Teddy Allan, who scored 36 points in the NCAA tournament not too long ago.
“That doesn’t even take into account the Canadian guys who were up for consideration as the Canadian of the year, including Isiaha Mike,” Raso said. “They are good and talented.”
The frustrating part for Raso was that he felt his team was good enough to beat Scarborough.
“Everything we talked about we had an opportunity to do. We needed to make life difficult for them, we needed to make them be in a situation where they had to rely on figuring out how to do it and there was going to be a lot of individual guys who would take bad shots,” he said. “If you are down 12, 14, or 16 points like we should have been up, then they start questioning things and become individual. If you give those guys life and they believe they can win and their confidence goes up, they are a very difficult team to defend. At the end of the day, we had an opportunity to do that and we let it pass. This one hurts. They are really good players but so are we. We had everything we needed to win.”
Top performers for Niagara in the loss were: Onu with 26 points; CEBL player of the year Khalil Ahmad with 23 points, six rebounds and six assists; Antonio Davis Jr. with 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists; and, Elijah Mitrou-Long with nine points, six rebounds and four assists.
Leading scorers for Scarborough were Harris (22), Kameron Chatman (22), Robertson (19), Danilo Djurcic (11) and Mike (10).
Niagara finished regular season play with a 13-7 record and then advanced to the semifinals with a 99-78 victor over the Guelph Nighthawks.