In the week leading up to Wednesday night’s game at Budweiser Gardens in London, both teams were riding high from impressive victories. The Titans shocked the NBL Canada world by upsetting the #1 team in the Atlantic Division the Saint John Riptide 92-90 this past Saturday. Then Kitchener perhaps still glowing from their upset win over the Riptide, gave the Lightning quite the battle less than 24 hours later, falling just short of another win 119-117. London was blessed with a lighter week on the schedule. Saturday the Lightning were too much on home court for Windsor, beating the Express 117-113 and the following night they pulled out a win late in the contest against the Titans on the road. The second part of a home and away between these two teams set the table for a huge rematch.
Surprisingly, the Lightning looked poised to control the game after only one quarter. They were ahead of Kitchener 24-19 going into what would be a horrendous 12 minutes of three point shooting by London in the second frame. The Lightning shot an ice cold 2-18 from beyond the arc, but were fortunate to only be trailing 46-43 at the halftime break. A lack of intensity maybe as a result of fatigue that was still lingering from their previous encounter on Sunday made for a tough 1st half to watch. London guard Doug Herring Jr. and Kitchener’s 6’6” guard Isiah Umpig each scored 10 points in a rather tame first half. Considering how these two NBL Canada teams usually play each other, with the intensity of a real hatred for their geographical enemies located an hour away on the 401. Instead fans witnessed hardly a moving screen, hard fouls, harsh words to the officials, and otherwise uneventful basketball. It seemed to be the way this entire tilt was heading. Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!
The third quarter was fairly even. The Titans maintained their narrow lead over the Lightning for most of the time. That was until London turned up the intensity on defense by forcing turnovers, which led to many fast break chances and timely three pointers, vaulting the Central Division leading Lightning to a 75-72 lead before heading off into the last frame. London’s ramped up defensive pressure perhaps rubbed Kitchener the wrong way because with about 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter, all kinds of action began when quite the brouhaha broke out. A flagrant foul committed by Titans’ guard Jason Calliste was the catalyst leading to pushing and shoving, the usual finger-pointing and fake tough guy acts that coincide with a typical basketball fight. In the wake of the aftermath, there were 2 ejections; Calliste’s removal from the game was no surprise after his flagrant was assessed to him immediately on the play, but the subsequent involvement and prompt ejection of London’s Garrett Williamson, that was a shocker. Williamson was not technically on the bench at the time of his bench technical foul. He was riding a stationary bike to stay warm, when he inexplicably left the bike and joined the ruckus, resulting in an automatic ejection. A ruling which seemed “ridiculous” to Lightning Head Coach Kyle Julius post-game, who strongly disagreed with the ejection Williamson, stating his player did nothing to deserve such a harsh verdict. The game settled down with London taking control after the ejections and subsequent free throws for both teams. Only a late technical foul called against Kitchener’s Flenard Whitfield, showed any remnants of the altercation earlier in the fourth. The Lightning ultimately won the quarter 24-19 and took the heated affair by a 99-91 final.
For Kitchener-Waterloo this Saturday is the next game on the schedule for the Titans as they look to bounce back from a loss in a fight with London, defending The Aud in a matchup against Orangeville. No time to lick their wounds or comb damaged egos from their loss against their 401 rivals, the Titans will quickly go back to the drawing board in an attempt to finish the remaining three games in their regular season with momentum that will carry them in and through the playoffs. London has now extended their home game winning streak to 17 in a row at the expense of Kitchener. The Lightning are looking to finish their last three games of the season healthy and on a roll. London gets a well deserved layoff until Sunday to rest, heal and practice. The WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario will be for sure a hostile environment for their next battle. The Express’ fans will be anxiously waiting for the Lightning and greet them accordingly rest assured NBL Canada fans.