Is This 1995 Or 2019?
The Edmonton Stingers faced up against the Niagara River Lions with a vengeance on their shoulders as they have been rivals since the beginning of the season. This rivalry began in the start of the CEBl season as the Stingers managed to defeat the River Lions in overtime. Unfortunately for the Stingers, they were unable to continue that streak against the Lions on the road as they managed to lose by a significant amount. Both Niagara and Edmonton have suffered horrible losses between each other, which is why this game is so important. With the Lions being 8-2 before this game, they are currently the number one team in the CEBLeague. As a result, the Stingers needed to fight harder than ever to secure a 2-1 winning streak against the River Lions in hopes of having an advantage going into the second half of the season. Edmonton accepted that challenge as they came into the arena locked in and ready to play aggressively with the mindset of viewing this game as a playoff game. Luckily enough, the Stingers ended up flushing the Lions away with a battle of the ages as they defeated them with the final score of 105-99 in a game that should have had a higher deficit. Although Edmonton did win this game, there was a point in this game where they almost lost despite having a 21 point lead in the third quarter. Even though the Stingers did win this game, the idea of them blowing a 21-point lead makes me wonder, what happened?
Immediately when tip-off started, the tone of the arena felt powerful. Both teams were hungry to defeat each other as point guard Alex Johnson of the Niagara River Lions right away was playing tight defence. The Grit and Grind aspect of basketball was evident in this game whether it was bodies jumping across the court to, pressing hard on the defensive end of the court. However, from the start of the game, the Lions were playing zone basketball on the offensive end which led to a few three-pointers. The Stingers had a rough time answering back offensively at the beginning of the game as they were unable to hit any shots. Despite the early struggles the Stingers had, they quickly fixed their flaws and knocked down crucial three-pointers. In fact, the three-point line was the story for this game as the Stingers managed to shoot 47% as a team compared to the horrendous 28% by the Lions. This statistic, along with the Stingers making their free-throws led them to defeat the Lions. Although the Lions shot well in the first quarter, Niagara struggled to carry that momentum in the coming quarters. The first quarter was aggressive as the Stingers came back from an early 5 point deficit and managed to tie the game at 23 points. This comeback by the Stingers resulted from teamwork as everyone on the Stingers managed to make an impact on both ends of the court. Instead of having one player doing all the work on offence, the Stingers shared the ball efficiently enough to allow everyone to score at least once. Edmonton would continue this unselfish style of basketball which would carry on to the next three quarters. As a result, the aggression and competitiveness that both teams had for each other carried on to the second quarter.
Despite the 1990 atmosphere that both teams shared, the modern era of basketball also shined. With multiple three-pointers throughout this quarter, the fans of Edmonton felt as if they were watching a three-point contest instead of an actual game. However, the real story about this quarter was the remarkable impact the Stingers had against the Lions as they managed to go on a massive scoring streak. Players such as Mamadou Gueye, Mathieu Kamba, Deondre Parks, and Travis Daniels were huge contributors to the Stingers success early in the game. Whether it was clutch three-pointers or flashy putback dunks, this team came to play in the second quarter as they iced the first half with the score of 57-42.
When entering the third quarter, the Lions were in desperate need of a comeback after a horrendous second quarter production. Unfortunately for the Lions, they had no match against Travis Daniels as he was unstoppable in the paint. Even though players such as Ryan Anderson and Dorian Pinson were playing remarkable basketball, the rest of the roster disappeared for the Lions. The Stingers, however, had Travis Daniels who was securing the paint on both ends of the floor and Mathieu Kamba who took over in the middle of the quarter. Whether it was hitting crucial three-pointers or committing smart fouls against the Lions defence, Kamba was lights out this quarter. With Kamba and Daniels playing incredible, Lions Ryan Anderson is a player that should not be ignored. In this game, Anderson had two jobs which were, to disrupt the Stingers mentally and to knock down critical three-pointers. Anderson achieved both tasks as he was lights out from behind the arc and also accomplished his mission of getting inside his opponents as he managed to trigger frustration to players such as Deondre Parks and Grandy Glaze. Unfortunately for Grandy, he managed to get ejected from this game due to an altercation that he had with Anderson. Despite that unnecessary interaction between Anderson and Glaze, the Stingers managed to avenge Glaze as Adika Peter-Mcneilly decided to set the tone for the remainder of the quarter. Mcneilly only scored six points during this quarter; however, his ball movement and passing IQ was displayed as he was the focal point of distributing the ball on offence. Although Anderson was an essential piece throughout this game for the Lions, the Stingers were the real story which led them to continue their scoring streak to end the quarter with a score of, 85-71.
The fourth quarter was underwhelming for the Stingers as they were slowly losing their momentum. Ryan Anderson, Dorion Pinson and Yohanny Dalembert were critical players in this quarter in every aspect of the game; however, the mastermind of it all was, Alex Johnson, who was the primary ball distributor. The Lions made an intimidating attempt to come back in this game; however, if it weren't for the consistency of the Stingers, the Lions would have won. Niagara had a different mindset going into this quarter as they were trying to make a comeback. Whether it was perimeter defence or nailing crucial three's, the Lion's believed in themselves despite being down double digits. Although the city of Edmonton felt that this game was close to over, Ryan Anderson and Yohanny Dalembert had a different opinion. This dynamic duo in the fourth quarter combined for 12 out of the 28 points scored in this quarter, which led the charge of bringing energy to the rest of their teammates. Despite Niagara out-scoring the Stingers by eight points, the Stingers still managed to keep the lead due to the incredible fourth quarter contribution of Akeem Ellis. Ellis managed to shoot 14 out of his total 16 points by strictly shooting three's and occasionally laying up the ball if he felt like it. This performance shook the entire arena as the fans were starting to call Ellis the king of the fourth quarter, If it weren't for the monstrous yet expected performance by Akeem Ellis, the Lions would have defeated the Stingers. Although the Lions were close towards the end of the game, Akeem Ellis and the Stingers managed to win by six points with the final score being, 105-99.
Overall, this game was by far the most intense game I have experienced. The moment tip-off happened, the intensity of the match shifted immensely due to how crucial of a game this was for both teams. The aggressiveness that both teams shared was poetry on the court. Whether it was Ryan Anderson hitting clutch shots through-out this game or Akeem Ellis being crowned as the king of the fourth quarter, both teams had strengths that shouldn't be overlooked. Although the Lions did lose this game, they are still a force to be reckoned with and should not be looked viewed as a weak team. Niagara is the number one seed in the CEBLeague and is arguably a team that will make it to the finals. However, as of right now, the Stingers managed to gain an advantage against the Lions as they are now 2-1 with this victory. Niagara may have been able to dominate every other team this season yet Edmonton is the team that they struggle with the most which makes them arguably the most dangerous team entering the second half of the season.