Oshawa wins NBL home opener over Moncton

The Canadian Press

11/3/2011 10:03:47 PM

OSHAWA, Ont. -- There was a new look at General Motors Centre on Thursday, with hardwood replacing ice as pro basketball made its debut in Oshawa.

With former NBA player Mark Strickland leading from the sidelines, the Oshawa Power won their National Basketball League of Canada home opener 107-80 against the visiting Moncton Miracles in front of a relatively small but enthusiastic crowd.

Kansas State University product Akeem Wright led the Power (1-1)with a game-high 27 points, scoring 18 points in the first half on 7-of-10 shooting. He also grabbed 11 rebounds to help stake the Power to a 48-26 lead after two quarters.

Oshawa's defence stymied the Miracles all night, holding them to 34 per cent from the field.

"We played well on defence," said a pleased Strickland. "We're getting better at team defence, we're getting better at trapping the post ... We're trying to have teams cater to us, instead of us cater to them.

Despite an announced crowd of just 1,123 in a facility that holds nearly 6,000, the building was buzzing with support for the home side most of the night.

For Oshawa local Steve Butterworth curiosity brought him down to the game and he was one of the many who liked what he saw.

"I thought I would give it a shot," he said. "There is no NBA this year, so I thought it was a great chance to see some pro basketball and, you know, see what the Power has to offer.

"You see the potential there. The tickets are very reasonable and you don't have to go into Toronto to see pro basketball. Talent-wise, I can only see it getting better."

Many fans lined the courtside seats, both on the baseline and sidelines, where the so-called best seats in the house -- or "Jack Nicholson" seats as the Power has dubbed them -- are located.

Those tickets can be picked up for $80, though much more affordable seats are available, ranging from $12 to $70.

Rowan Barrett, a longtime staple within the Canadian men's national team program, was also among the crowd to take in the opener.

The Power debuted at the GM Centre five years to the day that the building opened with an Oshawa Generals Ontario Hockey League game.

Strickland matched the crowd's enthusiasm Thursday night. He joined a group of three youngsters to participate in a mock slam dunk contest between the first and second quarters.

Strickland was as lively as anyone involved the game, stepping and jumping up and down the sidelines, barking orders at his crew. He didn't quit all night, continuing his banter through the final buzzer.

"Man, if I bring it, they're going to bring it. I have to," Strickland, an NBA veteran of nine seasons, said with a laugh after the game as fans mingled with Power players. "It's a mental game. If you're up 20, you should go up 40."

Elsewhere around the NBL on Thursday, the Summerside Storm dropped the Quebec Kebs 120-105 and the London Lightning won its home opener, 118-110 over the Halifax Rainmen.

The NBL was formed when three existing teams -- Halifax, the Saint John Mill Rats and Quebec -- left the Premier Basketball League. Four NBL franchises were then formed in London, Oshawa, Moncton, N.B., and Summerside, P.E.I.

Each team will play a 36-game schedule, with the top four advancing to the playoffs in March.