Lightning A Win From Repeating As Champs
In a best of 7 series that is tied, between two evenly matched teams, the only outcome that would surprise anyone was a lopsided victory for one of the teams involved. The London Lightning and the Halifax Hurricanes, began Game #5 on Monday at Budweiser Gardens, each knowing that it would probably go down to the wire again, or go into overtime. These two teams, although separated by thousands of kilometers, did not take long to develop a genuine dislike for one another, mixed with mutual respect for each other’s accomplishments this season. By now, there were no nerves, butterflies, or even uncertainty about your opponents, as X’s and O’s, can only go so far. Halifax and London are now familiar with each other, and the chances of one team catching the other off guard, is minimal. No, the only way that this game and series would be won, would be through flawless execution in the closing moments of the game. No mistakes, especially the kind that creep up during crunch time, are allowed. Although the Lightning pretty much controlled and led for most of the game, it was their ability to stay more focused, and disciplined than the Hurricanes, that secured their 110-102 victory. Powered by the team high 27 points from guard Doug Herring Jr., London was able to dictate the pace of the game for 3 quarters, many times leading by double digits. Halifax made it close in the 4th, but the Lightning bent, but did not break, taking a 3-2 series lead on the road to Nova Scotia, and a chance at repeating as champions.
Quarter 1 started as the other 1st quarters did in this series, with each team throwing their best punches, in an attempt to establish control early on. There was no real advantage in the quarter, which was won by London 25-22, however the 3 ball was shot at an alarming rate by the Lightning. London finished the quarter by shooting 46% from the 3 point line, while the Hurricanes, did not hit a single 3 in the 1st. Another aspect of this particular 1st quarter start by both teams, is what was missing. Halifax and the Lightning combined for a miniscule total of 2 personal fouls, both given to London.
The commencement of the 2nd quarter, brought about a fierce intensity by the host squad, that had yet to be seen in this series. The Lightning were playing in the 2nd, like they were avenging a loved one’s death. London put up 25, with over 4 minutes left to play in the quarter. The Lightning would go on to hit over 52% of their shots, and still shot the 3 ball well, hitting on 6 out of 9 attempts. London was determined to give the Hurricanes absolutely no hope of mounting any comebacks in the quarter. No matter how many big buckets that Halifax would score, they never reached within single digits of the Lightning in the half. London led 60-48 at halftime, and looked poised to close out the game before the 4th.
Out of the locker rooms to start the 2nd half, the Lightning continued what they started in the 2nd quarter. London could go wherever, do whatever, whenever they wanted to, while they kept the Hurricanes at bay, with their defense. Statistically, the effect of London’s defense would not show what the effort did, as the Lightning only forced 2 turnovers. Trapping, and applying pressure at random moments, sometimes full court, is how the Lightning were able to limit any momentum gained by Halifax. After 3 quarters of play, London carried an 87-75 lead into the 4th.
The Hurricanes created quite the panic with their flurry in the opening moments of the 4th quarter. Halifax went on an 11-2 run, pulling within single digits for the first time since the 1st quarter. The score was 89-86 in favour of the Lightning before their Head Coach Keith Vassell called a timeout to discuss strategy on putting the Hurricanes away for good. After the timeout, it appeared as if nobody was listening to the London coach, as Halifax scored again, and as a result was only down 1. The once strong double digit lead, which was maintained for most of 3 quarters, was now down to a single point. Who wanted this win more? Who was going to execute, and who was not going to execute? The answers to those questions, decided the outcome of the game, secured the victory, and gave the Lightning a 3-2 series lead. Each team hit two 3’s in the quarter, but London only missed 1, while the Hurricanes missed 4 of their 6 attempts. The amount of 3’s was not as impactful as the timing of them. It seemed as if whenever the Lightning needed a big basket, they hit a 3, that would take the wind out of Halifax’s sails.
The victory was London’s third in a row in the series, but were all at home, in front of their fans. The win also gives the Lightning a 3-2 lead in this best of 7 NBL Canada Championship series, and two chances to closeout the Hurricanes. It will not, however, be an easy task for London to steal one out of two in Halifax’s barn. The Lightning have yet to win a game in this series on the road, but are fully confident that momentum is on their side, and that they will return to London with the championship.