The past week’s CEBL action was marked by the return of a familiar sight: fans in the stands. The Saskatchewan Rattlers became the first CEBL team this season to play a game that was open to the general public when they hosted the Edmonton Stingers on Monday. It wasn’t enough to overcome the defending champs, but they fought much harder than they did in their previous encounters.
Once Ontario moved to Stage 3 of reopening, their four teams got the green light to host up to 1,000 fans at their games. It was long overdue, and the fans’ presence definitely helped swing a few results this week. Going forward, the road team should be factoring in crowd noise when setting their gameplan.
Another exciting development for basketball fans in Quebec is that the CEBL Montreal team will be brought into the fold starting in May 2022. While there is still no name attached to the team, this is great news for the league. Here’s hoping they can follow Ottawa’s blueprint and be competitive right out of the gate.
After the Stingers took down the Rattlers, it was off to Hamilton for a highly anticipated rematch with the Honey Badgers on Thursday. The contest, however, didn’t live up to the hype, as Edmonton flexed their muscles in a dominant 99-63 win.
While the game remained close throughout the first half, the Stingers took control in the third when they went on a 27-0 run to push the game from tied to a commanding 70-43 lead. Xavier Moon was unstoppable with 34 points and eight steals. While Lindell Wigginton has been great all year for the Honey Badgers, he struggled to the tune of 12 points on 3-of-15 shooting.
On the heels of a commanding win like that, the Stingers must’ve fancied their chances to finish the week undefeated. But they finally met their match in the Ottawa Blackjacks, who handed the champs their first loss of the season on Saturday.
The Blackjacks started off their week with a 90-87 loss to the Guelph Nighthawks. After an emotionally charged win over Fraser Valley, the Blackjacks seemed to run out of gas in the fourth quarter after leading the Nighthawks for much of the game. But in addition to Cat Barber’s heroics, he had 24 points and six assists, TJ Lall and Kimbal Mackenzie hit some clutch buckets for Guelph during the Elam Ending.
Picking up their first win of the season was a huge boost for the Nighthawks, and they managed to double that tally when they beat the Rattlers on Friday.
But the Blackjacks remained undeterred by that setback and bounced back in what was easily their biggest win of the season against the Stingers. They won by setting a physical tone, especially on the boards. They also employed an aggressive strategy against the Stingers’ leading scorer, Xavier Moon, and it worked as he was held to 17 points on the night while also fouling out. Poster dunks like this also got the crowd energized and ready for war.
Junior Cadougan scored the Elam Ending winner and put his emotions on full display afterwards. The Blackjacks were no doubt fired up to play in front of their home crowd, and they sent the fans home happy afterwards.
Ottawa may still be winless on the road, but they are a scrappy team that wears their heart on their sleeve and can frustrate their opponents. And now that it’s been announced that the CEBL Championship this year will be contested in Ottawa, the team will carry a “why not us” mentality the rest of the way. Jevohn Shepherd has certainly done an excellent job building an identity for his Blackjacks.
The Honey Badgers dropped another game, 71-68, to the Niagara River Lions on Saturday for their first losing streak of the season. After the River Lions found themselves trailing by 14 at halftime, they could’ve easily laid down. But in front of their home crowd, there was no way they were going to let that happen. Javin DeLaurier was a monster all game – he finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds – but it was Jaylen Babb-Harrison who delivered the winning bucket in the Elam Ending.
The River Lions now find themselves above .500 this season at 4-3, while the Honey Badgers will hope to snap out of this slump against the charged up Blackjacks.