Canadian Elite Basketball League

Niagara River Lions Snap Ottawa BlackJacks Perfect Home Record with a 93-82 Win

June 18, 2023 - Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) News Release

Niagara River Lions versus Ottawa BlackJacks
Niagara River Lions versus Ottawa BlackJacks

Khalil Ahmad's 19 points led the Niagara River Lions (4-4) as they handed the Ottawa BlackJacks (4-3) their first home loss of the season in a 93-82 win on Saturday night.

The guard was not only a leader offensively with his 19 points and eight assists but was also a leader on the defensive end. His six steals ended up being a game-high and were also more than Ottawa's entire team who managed just four takeaways on the night.

It was a total team effort for Niagara as they had five players hit double figures, two of which came off the bench. Jahvon Henry-Blair continued his impressive season by scoring 18 points on an efficient 50 per cent shooting, while Antonio Davis Jr. added 17 points (including the game-winner) and six rebounds.

Niagara head coach Victor Raso was especially complimentary of Edward Ekiyor who had himself another efficient double-digit scoring night off the bench with 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists.

"He's one of the best teammates," said Raso as gestured over to the team's leader in Ahmad to agree with him. "As a teammate...he never complains about getting subbed, never complains about not getting the ball."

"For your best teammate to be 6'10, athletic, talented, and insanely competitive, I'm just lucky to have him on the team."

On the other side, Ottawa's top performer was Jackson Rowe who scored 19 points on the night to go with seven rebounds and five assists. He was helped by Deng Adel who nearly had a triple-double via his 14 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists. Tommy Scrubb also made his debut for the BlackJacks in the loss and put forth an efficient 12 points on 5-10 shooting and six rebounds.

The team's top scorer in Kadre Gray had his toughest outing of the 2023 season as he finished the contest with six points and six assists on just 1-3 shooting from the field. His first point didn't come until the 7:15 mark of the fourth quarter and his only field goal was a layup scored in Target Score Time.

This game began with Ottawa's Jackson Rowe showing why he earned a free agent camp invite from the Golden State Warriors. He scored 10 of his team's first 12 points on an efficient 57 per cent shooting, while being the only BlackJacks player to make a field goal in the first four minutes of play.

His strong effort helped his team get out to a 9-2 lead in the first three minutes of the game but wasn't enough to contain Niagara the rest of the way. The River Lions went on a 13-3 run led by Khalil Ahmad's two triples, on route to a 21-19 lead to end the first frame.

The second quarter felt nearly identical to the first with how things unfolded. The frame began with an Ottawa player doing most of his team's damage. This time it was Zena Edosomwan off the bench, as he scored eight of his team's first 11 points as they tried to hold onto a lead.

However, just like in the first, it was a late run that allowed the River Lions to get back in the game and end the frame ahead. The team went on a 9-2 run in the final two minutes of the quarter, helping them take a narrow 45-42 lead at half-time.

Niagara came into the contest as the league's second-best three-point shooting team (35.8 per cent) and showed how dangerous they can be from distance, with all nine of those final points coming on long-balls.

The River Lions took that momentum and carried it over throughout the third period. The team forced four turnovers and subsequently scored 13 of their 23 third-quarter points in transition, ending the frame a +9 on fast-break buckets while holding a 68-62 lead heading into the fourth.

"The change always comes on defense," said Ahmad on the third quarter being a turning point in the game. "If we're locked in on defense, that's when we start making plays and getting easy buckets."

Ottawa did themselves no favours to start the final period as they committed five early turnovers helping Niagara increase the lead to as many as 19 points before the River Lions went into Target Score Time up 84-70.

The BlackJacks did show some fight in the Target Score period by going on a 14-2 run at one point to cut the River Lion's lead down to 10 points. However, they ended up losing their second-best scorer on the night in Adel when he and Ekiyor clashed heads and ended up leaving the game.

Without the offensive punch of Adel, the comeback effort stopped rather quickly as Davis Jr. got fouled on a dunk attempt for Niagara and knocked down a free-throw to end the contest 93-82 the final.

A big part of why Ottawa ended up losing their first home game of the season was their turnovers late. The team ended up committing seven more turnovers than Niagara on the night and gave up 18 points as a result. A trend that BlackJacks head coach James Derouin recognizes they need to correct moving forward.

"The turnovers have plagued us a little bit throughout the season," Derouin said post-game. "Points off of turnovers specifically...definitely got to be tighter...against a team [Niagara] that good you're not going to get away with that."

Niagara has now won four out of their last five games and are winners of consecutive games for the second time this season.

The River Lions will head back home to host the Calgary Surge for their school day game on Friday. Meanwhile, the BlackJacks will return to action on Tuesday where they'll visit the Scarborough Shooting Stars for TSN's CEBL Game of the Week.

Images from this story

Niagara River Lions versus Ottawa BlackJacks
Niagara River Lions versus Ottawa BlackJacks


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