Lightning Show Heart Of Champions In Must Win
There are two ways that things can go down when dealing with a wounded animal as the hunter. Either the animal surrenders succumbing to their wounds favourably or it defends itself under attack with a ferocity like no other. Under pressure, athletes, behave in many ways similar to animals. Athletes, especially in team sports, are creatures of habit, and will compete to their bitter end. In this particular analogy, the London Lightning represent the wounded animal, with the Halifax Hurricanes and their 2-0 lead in their best of 7 series putting themselves in the role of the hunter, seeking to wall mount their wounded prey. Adding to the drama, is the fact that the Lightning are the defending champions, who showed guts in times of adversity, and reminded people to never underestimate the heart of a champion. The wounded animal London, hosted Game #3 at Budweiser Gardens after dropping the first two games of the series in Halifax. To nobody’s surprise in attendance, the Lightning were not about to go down 3-0 at home in front of their fans. London controlled the game from the 1st to the 4th quarter, and eventually pulled away from the Hurricanes, winning the game 110-100. The win puts the series at 2-1, with Game #4 Saturday evening back at Budweiser Gardens.
Knowing full well that this was a must win game, the Lightning charged out to an early lead, producing positives out of the hyper and nervous emotions, that must have been running through each player and coach for London. The Lightning shot a modest 50% from the field, but hit 3 out of their 6 attempts from the land beyond. Both teams had 5 fouls each, so unlike other games in the series, the referees were not a factor in the early going. London was clearly determined to send the message to Halifax and the fans of the Lightning in attendance, that the Hurricanes were going to have to steal this game. After 1 quarter of end to end action in a marvelous 12 minutes, London led Halifax 27-24.
Perhaps it was like coming off a caffeine high for the Lightning, as they started the 2nd quarter as if they were stuck in quicksand and appeared burnt out. London either failed to close out on the Hurricanes’ 3 point shooters, or they did not have the energy to bother defending them. The Lightning were able to maintain their lead that they had carried from the 1st, as London was quite fortunate that Halifax couldn't hit the Thames River, if they fell out of a boat. The Hurricanes shot better from the 3 point line, then they did from inside the line, at 36%. London held the lead solely because of their 71% shooting from long distance. The Lightning outscored the Hurricanes 30-27 in the quarter, and Halifax trailed 57-51 at halftime, in large part due to London bombing five 3’s in the quarter.
In the 2nd half, the officials found their whistles, maybe in an attempt to squash any on court dealings before they happened. A combination of 15 fouls were called in the 3rd quarter, with the Lightning committing 7 of them. Also factor in that London’s once bottomless well of 3’s, dried up faster than boiled water. It must be difficult to shoot accurately, when most of your attention is focused on the referees. The Lightning, protested every call and lack of call no matter what side of the court they were on. Mind you, there were some questionable calls or lack thereof, and London fouled 7 times, compared to the 1 time the Hurricanes were whistled for a foul, at one point in the quarter. Halifax outscored the Lightning for the 1st time in the game, to the tune of 27-24, but despite the futility of London’s offense, they went into the 4th in good position for a win, which would also get them right back in this series.
The Lightning, became the hunters in the 4th quarter, allowing the Hurricanes to convert on only 38% of their field goal attempts. London remained disciplined, not giving in to the lure of the physical nature that the game had now embraced. Halifax went to the charity stripe courtesy of Lightning fouls, only on three occasions. London lived at the foul line in the final frame, and essentially iced the game from there. The Lightning shot an outrageous 13 foul shots, and converted on all, but one.
Postgame London’s Head Coach Keith Vassell, said that it was "an absolutely must win game". Suddenly when the time came to turn the tables on their opponents, the Lightning struck, making their visitors the hunted by the 4th, winning the game with a poise and grace, befitting of the current defending champions. Fans, players, and coaches alike were ecstatic about the win, which puts London back in the best of series, trailing 2-1. Game #4 will be played at Budweiser Gardens on Saturday, with the opening tip taking place at 7pm. The 2-3-2 format of this series, places favour in the hands of the Lightning. Having the support of their home fans for 3 straight, is a huge advantage, however, the series cannot be won at home. If London hopes to win this series, they must first handle their business in the Forest City, and play much better on the road, than they did in the two losses in Halifax. Otherwise, fans will be greeting the team at the airport with tissues, instead of flowers and congratulatory signs.