BY ALEX LUPUL
The Niagara River Lions opened their 2017-2018 season on the highest possible note, earning two hard-fought victories in a row on their home court.
Niagara aimed to close out their three-game home stand in winning fashion against the Atlantic Division’s Halifax Hurricanes (2-3), on Nov. 29.
The home crowd gathered at the Meridian Centre and took in a closely contested game during the opening quarter, with both teams continually exchanging chances. The Hurricanes outscored the River Lions 25-21, but from then onward it was entirely Niagara’s game.
Niagara point guard Omar Strong led the second-quarter charge, scoring 11 points on 4-5 shooting from the field, making all three of his shots from beyond the arc.
While Niagara’s offense was firing on all cylinders the team’s defensive pressure was unrelenting, holding the Hurricanes to a measly 26.1 per cent shooting from the field.
The team bounced back from an early deficit to a 51-39 lead at the half.
Niagara continued their sound team play in the game’s third quarter, doing an excellent job of eliminating the Hurricane’s attempts at second-chance points, nearly doubling Halifax’s seven rebounds with 13 of their own.
River Lions’ forward Marvell Waithe picked up 18 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter, largely in part from Niagara’s ability to efficiently move the ball. The River Lions’ ability to find the open man resulted in the team picking up a total of 32 assists to Halifax’s 15.
“With us being the point guards, we’ve got to run the team and make sure everybody’s getting their touches,” said Strong. “If people are getting their shots and getting their touches, people love to play defense.”
With the lead in place, which was as high as 24 points during the game’s final frame, it enabled the River Lions to cruise to an easy 111-91 victory over the Halifax Hurricanes.
The team will play two away games against the St. John’s Edge Dec. 1-2 before returning home to take on the London Lightning on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.