Above the rim

Lightning Quell Hurricanes In OT

Roger Cumberbatch

Many times in sports, when a team is facing elimination, and the moment arises for them to step up and fight, inexperienced teams will wilt like a flower in the desert.  The London Lightning are the defending champions, however, so they are wired a little differently than most others. The Halifax Hurricanes are trying to take what they have, the crown, and the champs are not willing to surrender the throne easily.  Forget going down without a fight, the Lightning sent a message, albeit in overtime, that they were not willing to go down at all.  As a matter of fact, it was the Hurricanes who were determined to extend the game as long as they could, being down double digits late, rallying from behind to force OT, before losing 122-114.  A valiant effort by both teams, who showed solidarity, pushing aside in-game battles, and ego, as they gathered at half court to pray for London’s Marcus Capers, who went down with an injury to his neck.  Late in the 4th, while battling for a rebound, Capers went down along with a couple of other players who landed on him.  A nervous hush fell over everyone in Budweiser Gardens, as there was no movement until Capers was put on a stretcher and signaled that he could move his extremities.  No further update on his condition was given post-game, but he must have been very proud to know how hard his brothers in arms fought together to pull out the much needed victory. The Lightning with their overtime win have tied the best of 7 series at 2-2, with Game #5 taking place in London on Monday at 7pm.

The Lightning explode out of the gate like a wild horse in an open field, by starting on a 11-2 run within the first 3 minutes of the game.  According to their Head Coach Keith Vassell’s post-game comments after Game #3, an improved effort on the defensive glass was evident even in the early going.  Each team was scoring the majority of their points in the paint, with little resistance. The score was foreshadowing to all in attendance, or participating, that this dog fight was going to go the distance and beyond.  After 1 quarter, London led Halifax 26-24.

The Hurricanes had a mini eruption of their own to begin the 2nd frame, as Halifax outscored their hosts 15-11, appearing to catch the Lightning by surprise.  London regained the lead after nailing some timely 3’s, going on a 9-4 run midway through the 2nd quarter.  This game featured 15 ties, and 10 lead changes. A battle to the end of their opponents, is how the quarter began, but the 2nd half of the quarter was marred with whistles.  15 fouls were called in the quarter, 10 of which were called against the Hurricanes, who continuously voiced their displeasure with every discrepancy.  Yet, despite the large gap in foul calls between the teams, and Halifax’s constant whining to the referees, the game remained close at halftime.  The Lightning gingerly were nursing a 55-53 lead heading into the locker room.  The biggest reason for the narrow lead for London, is that they were held to only 43% shooting from the field and from 3, while the Hurricanes scored on 55% of their attempts, and 43% from behind the arc.

At the start of the 3rd quarter, the Lightning tried to put some distance between themselves and Halifax, but could not gain any traction.  London would score or go on a mini run, only to give up a basket to the Hurricanes. The unwanted tweets of the whistle started to re-emerge in the 2nd half, and the Lightning benefited again from the majority of calls going against their opponents.  London drove to the hoop with a reckless abandonment, either enjoying a clear path to the rim, or drawing fouls that were the results of mismatches created in pick and roll plays that they ran to perfection. The combo of inside and outside play by the Lightning, was mixed together with the precision of a chemist.  An explosive dunk late in the 3rd by London’s Mo Bolden, punctuated a strong 3rd quarter performance by he and the home side.  The Lightning ended the 3rd quarter by building a double digit lead, 88-77.  London controlled the Hurricanes with smothering defense at times, trapping and double teaming Halifax players, who could not seem to find the rhythm they had in the 1st half. The Lightning limited the Hurricanes to 40% shooting, and London torched their visitors defenders by shooting 55% from the field.

The Lightning continued to play Halifax like a fiddle, luring their hands into the cookie jar, forcing 3 quick foul calls to start the 4th quarter.  The Hurricanes gained some early momentum and trimmed a once double digit lead, down to single digits, causing London’s Coach Keith Vassell to call a timeout.  Apparently none of what Vassell said in the huddle, was heard, as Halifax came out of the timeout break on an 8-0 run, taking a late 100-98 lead. The Lightning fought hard, remained calm, and executed their sets down the stretch to force OT, where they took over, eventually putting away the resilient Hurricanes.  

With momentum totally on their side, and enough confidence to fill the Budweiser Gardens, the Game #4 win for London, not only tied the series, but it put the pressure back on Halifax.  Now the Hurricanes have a must win, on the road in Game #5 because they cannot afford to give the defending champs, 2 chances to close out the series in their own barn, in front of the Halifax faithful.