Nighthawks watch Niagara get too far out of sight to catch up

GUELPH – The Guelph Nighthawks fell too far behind to recover as they were dropped 93-85 by the Niagara River Lions in Canadian Elite Basketball League play Saturday night at the Sleeman Centre.

“Like I said to the guys, we can’t wait and wait until the end to fight,” Nighthawks coach and general manager Tarry Upshaw said. “We can’t get outworked. We’ve got to work in the first half. You know they had 23 points on layups and that was just effort. It was for nothing else but effort.”

“We’ve got to have better starts,” Nighthawks forward Chris Johnson said. “That’s something that we talked about as a team. We’ve just got to come earlier with the same type of urgency that we came with in the third quarter and the fourth quarter. If we start games off the right way, we don’t have to battle from 23 points down and we’ll give ourselves a better opportunity.”

After scoring the first nine points of the game for their biggest lead of the match, the Nighthawks went stone cold as Niagara went on a 29-9 run in the rest of the quarter and eventually built their advantage to 58-35 in the final minute of the opening half. The home side came back in the third quarter, closing the margin to 72-67 by the end of the quarter, but they used up most of the gas left in their tanks to get it that close.

Upshaw figures the slow starts aren’t a huge surprise because the Nighthawks are even slow-starting during their practices.

“It takes us a long time to get going in practice so now we have to get there earlier so that we’re ready at 10 (a.m.) to go,” he said. “Other than that and this might sound crazy, but I think we’re getting better. When we play hard and the ball moves, now we’re getting some inside spacing and some shooting. It’s just that some guys are too cool for school and they can’t be too cool for school. You’ve got to have that hunger right off the jump.”

Johnson led the Nighthawks with 16 points while Jamal Reynolds had 14, Chadrack Lufile 13 and Aaron Redpath 10. Chadrack Lufile grabbed eight rebounds while Myles Charvis and Johnson each had four assists and Olu Famutimi and Reynolds each had three steals.

Niagara had five players in double digits in scoring as Guillaume Payen-Boucard led with 17 and was followed by Trae Bell-Haynes and Nem Mitrovic with 15 apiece, Dorian Pinson with 14 and Ryan Anderson with 11. Payen-Boucard latched on to 11 rebounds while Bell-Haynes had six assists, Pinson had four thefts and Sam Muldrow had three blocks.

The game completes the first quarter of the season for the Nighthawks, who are assessing their improvement through blocks.

“We’re doing it in five-game segments and so the first games we’re 2-3 and we’re going to the second five games,” Upshaw said. “We want to try to go 5-0 and it all starts on Monday morning. It actually starts tonight with guys not going out, guys not partying – guys going home, resting, getting their body done and then on Monday morning guys being on time and getting ready to go.”

“(Slow starts are) something a lot of teams battle with,” Johnson said. “We’re just trying to figure out the right solutions and I feel like we will have it because we’ve got a group of guys that are hungry and 2-3 is not what we want for this group.”

Next game for the Nighthawks is Wednesday when they’re to play the Hamilton Honey Badgers at Hamilton’s FirstOntario Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.


Niagara River Lions              5-1
Hamilton Honey Badgers     3-2
Edmonton Stingers                3-2
Saskatchewan Rattlers         3-3
Guelph Nighthawks               2-3
Fraser Valley Bandits            0-5


River Lions 93 Nighthawks 85
Guelph          18-20-29-18–85
Niagara         29-29-14-21–93


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  • Guelph Sports Journal