By in sports on Apr 14, 2017 |
Head Coach Kyle Julius Post-Game
Guard Garrett Williamson Post-Game

Wednesday night’s contest at Budweiser Gardens in London,  was billed as a prequel to the NBL Canada championships, and it did not disappoint.  The Saint John Riptide (22-14), entered as the top team in the Atlantic division, while London sat in first place in the Central division (29-5).  The Riptide came into the game riding a 6 game winning streak, while the Lightning were trying to extend their home winning streak to 15 and avenge a 20 point loss in their previous encounter in the process.  Unfortunately in sports, someone has to lose, and Saint John was unable to stop London’s home winning streak, falling 124-119.

The Lightning entered the game short-handed, missing Julian Boyd and Joel Friesen due to injury.  London was also minus one of their top guns in Royce White who was serving a suspension for earning his 6th technical foul of the season, a violation of league policy.  Lightning Head Coach Kyle Julius talked post-game about wanting his team to stick to their game plan.  He went on to discuss that he told his squad that they might trail early if they follow his gameplan, but eventually they will win.  Their plan was to attack the paint and get the Riptide into early foul trouble.  Mission accomplished; as London finished with 68 points in the paint, compared to Saint John’s 48 points inside the key.  The Riptide unknowingly went along with the plan to get in foul trouble to start the first half, being outshot from the free throw line 7-3 by the Lightning.   

The Riptide seemed to figure things out in the 2nd quarter, shooting a blistering 45% from the 3 point line.  Saint John’s offence was being powered by 6’6” forward Gabe Freeman and 5’11” guard Anthony Anderson.  Anderson went to work from beyond the arc and ending up finishing the evening with a game high 31 points.  Freeman however, scored a much ‘louder’ 18 points, chirping after every blocked shot and savouring every and 1 play, by drawing fouls while hitting baskets and consistently hitting the subsequent free throws.  London fans, and players on the bench all received the royal treatment from Mr. Freeman, as there was nobody within earshot that did not hear from him at some point or another.  Freeman’s swagger appeared to give the Riptide momentum going into halftime, as a result it produced a rare deficit for the Lightning trailing 65-61 at the end of the 1st half, which had most London fans reaching for their bottle of Pepto Bismol.  Coach Julius remained as cool as a cucumber, maintaining the game plan he started with, and not buckling under the 4 point differential on the scoreboard.  Despite the deficit London had many different single digit contributions, but only 6’7” guard Garrett Williamson managed a double digit total, ending the half with 14 points.

The 3rd quarter began as the 2nd quarter ended, with Saint John attacking the basket and forcing turnovers early.  However, the Lightning responded well to the adversity and recaptured the lead 92-91 by the end of 3 quarters of action.  Timely 3’s and capitalizing off of forced turnovers (London outscored the Riptide 16-9 in points from turnovers alone).  Kyle Johnson had a team/game high 31 points and the Lightning had 6 players in double digit scoring, proving to be too much for the top dogs from out East. In the 4th quarter London managed to muffle Freeman’s mouth, and although Anthony Anderson’s 31 points  made things interesting throughout the 4th, it was still not enough to spoil the home team’s gameplan.  By the conclusion of the game it was Saint John who ended up outshooting London narrowly 19-18 via free throws, but the damage was already inflicted at the charity stripe earlier in the evening.

This epic battle of NBL Canada’s best ended with a Lightning win 124-119, pushing their home winning streak to 15 games in a row.  Next on tap for London’s finest is a rematch with the Windsor Express on Saturday April 15th, live from Budweiser Gardens in London with later 7:30pm tipoff.   The Express almost gave London all that they could handle in their previous matchup, only losing 106-101 in a gritty and close affair.  There are 6 games remaining in the regular season for the Central division title holding Lightning, including 4 at home.  London Head Coach Kyle Julius would prefer some momentum to close out the remainder of the season, and have his squad be as healthy as possible.