Semifinal #1: Scarborough Shooting Stars vs. Niagara River Lions
The Scarborough Shooting Stars overcame yet another slow start to solidify their place in the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) Finals with a 93-81 victory over the number two-seeded Niagara River Lions.
The game was the first of two to take place in Ottawa at TD Place on Friday night, and the Shooting Stars dug themselves a hole early as Niagara opened the game on a 14-4 run. Scarborough was also without key contributor Kalif Young pushing Kyle Alexander back into the starting lineup and Danilo Djurcic into a more prominent role off the bench.
Niagara ended the first quarter up 26-16 while holding Scarborough to 12 per cent shooting from deep. Khalil Ahmad, who was named the CEBL’s most valuable player and clutch player of the year, earlier this week, once again led the River Lions early and ended up with 23 points, six assists, and six rebounds. EJ Onu would also contribute a game-high 26 points to the River Lions’ efforts.
The Shooting Stars began to turn the game around in the second quarter and held the River Lions to just nine points. Djurcic hit his biggest shot of the year to bring it within one, as he had a season of 11 points for Scarborough. Niagara would end the half up 35-33, but the momentum had begun to build for the Shooting Stars heading into the third quarter.
As they’ve done throughout the season, the Shooting Stars changed the game in the second half. Guarding the River Lions with more aggression and hitting a variety of shots. Jalen Harris led the Shooting Stars with 22 points, eight rebounds, and six points and changed his game by attacking the basket while shooting one for nine from deep. Kameron Chatman also scored 22 points and grabbed four rebounds while showcasing a series of post shots.
Kassius Robertson led the Scarborough offence to a 17-point lead just before Elam time, hitting two key three-point bombs on his way to 19 points and five rebounds. The River Lions made one last run in the game to make it a nine-point game in Elam time and force a timeout by Shooting Stars’ head coach Chris Exlius.
The Shooting Stars iced the game with a defensive stop, and a put-back layup from Chatman gave Scarborough a spot in the Finals in their inaugural season.
Scarborough Shooting Stars vs. Niagara River Lions boxscore click HERE.
Scarborough Shooting Stars vs. Niagara River Lions livestream link below:
Semifinal #2 Ottawa BlackJacks vs. Hamilton Honey Badgers
The number one seed Hamilton Honey Badgers hung on to find a place in the CEBL Finals with a tightly contested 76-72 win over the Ottawa BlackJacks.
The eighth seed Ottawa BlackJacks received an automatic bye to the semi-finals as the hosts of the CEBL Championship Weekend. Deng Adel opened the game with an uncontested three off an unusual uncontested drop ball. The game quickly became a defensive battle with the hometown BlackJacks taking a 20-12 lead with Hamilton’s offence struggling to deal with the physicality of Ottawa’s defence – a night and day difference from a BlackJacks team that started the season as one of the worst defensive teams in the league.
Hamilton began to work back into the game in the second quarter with Jeremiah Tilmon consistently finding points in the paint and Caleb Agada leading the offence with pinpoint passing, but Ottawa continued to find answers from throughout their roster when they needed it until the final three minutes before half where Hamilton dug in behind Koby McEwen to cut the lead to 37-34.
Christian Vital led all scorers with 16 points, Jeremiah Tilmon had 12 points and four rebounds on the game, and McEwen had 15 points and nine rebounds. Agada had another solid all-around game with seven points, six rebounds, and five assists while playing defence on some of the primary ball handlers throughout the game.
McEwen, the CEBL’s sixth man of the year, tied the game at 41 in the third quarter off a deep three-pointer, but the BlackJacks answered each bucket with one of their own. At the three-minute mark of the quarter, the pace of the game reached a fevered pace with Hamilton launching shots from deep and Ottawa’s ball movement leading to highlight reel passing but Hamilton ended the quarter up 57-55.
The BlackJacks had solid production from their entire lineup, but Zena Edosomwan stood out with 14 points and 10 rebounds, followed by Tyrrel Tate and Adel, who each had 13 points.
The breakneck pace continued into the fourth quarter and into Elam time, where the Honey Badgers showed the poise that made them the number one seed during the regular season. Aaron Best hit a key three-point shot to bring Hamilton to within one point of the CEBL Finals. With the Ottawa fans on their feet cheering on the BlackJack’s defence, Agada drove to the basket and picked up the foul to sink the final point to set the date with a match against the surging Scarborough Shooting Stars.
Ottawa BlackJacks vs. Hamilton Honey Badgers boxscore click HERE.