Nighthawks dropped by league-leading Niagara River Lions
GUELPH – The Guelph Nighthawks’ spot in the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Final Four championship tournament was put in peril Saturday night when they dropped a 96-87 decision to the Niagara River Lions at the Sleeman Centre.
With four games to go in their regular season, the Nighthawks are tied for fifth in the six-team league with the Fraser Valley Bandits with identical 4-12 records.
Niagara leads the league at 13-4 and is followed by the Edmonton Stingers at 12-4, Saskatchewan Rattlers at 8-8 and Hamilton Honey Badgers at 8-9.
The league’s championship tournament next month at Saskatoon is to include the host Rattlers and the top three of the other five teams. That means Niagara, Edmonton and Saskatchewan have already clinched berths in the Final Four and Hamilton, Guelph and Fraser Valley are battling for the fourth spot.
That spot will be Hamilton’s if the Honey Badgers, currently on a three-game losing streak, win one of the three games they have left on their regular-season schedule.
For the Nighthawks to get into the tournament, they have to win each of their final four games and have Hamilton lose its final three games.
And the Nighthawks would have to win the tie-breaker with the Honey Badgers as they’d both have 8-12 records. Guelph’s four remaining games include two with Hamilton who won the previous two meetings between the teams by a combined total of seven points.
The other game on Hamilton’s schedule is against Niagara.
The Nighthawks never led Saturday as the River Lions scored the opening basket of the game and went on as 19-8 run on their way to a 22-13 lead at the end of the first quarter. Niagara was ahead 46-38 at halftime and 71-57 at the end of the third quarter.
The River Lions had their lead up to 16 points in the fourth quarter before the Nighthawks closed the gap a little in the final four and a half minutes of the game.
Olu Famutimi and Kimbal Mackenzie each had 20 points for the Nighthawks while Connor Wood netted 16 and Michale Kyser had 11. Chadrack Lufile grabbed seven rebounds while Mackenzie had six assists, Famutimi had four steals and Wood had two blocks.
Dorian Pinson and Alex Johnson each hit for 19 points for Niagara while Guillaume Payen-Boucard and Ryan Anderson had 11. Pinson hauled down 11 rebounds while Johnson had seven assists and Yohanny Dalembert had three blocks.
The Nighthawks received 16 points from the players who started the game on the bench. That was half as many as Niagara got from their bench players.
Guelph and Niagara are to meet again Thursday at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. Game time is 7 p.m.
The other games left for the Nighthawks are against the Honey Badgers at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre Saturday at 5 p.m., against Hamilton at the Sleeman Centre Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. and against Saskatchewan at Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre Aug. 15 at 9 p.m.
River Lions 96 Nighthawks 87
- Guelph Sports Journal