Two days after a record-breaking comeback in Target Score Time, the Calgary Surge (3-0) once again used a late run to knock off the Niagara River Lions (0-2) 85-82 at the Winsport Arena on Tuesday night.
After leading by as much as 19 points in the second half, the Surge found themselves trailing by three entering Target Score Time. On Sunday, the Surge overcame a 16 point deficit to stun the Edmonton Stingers in Target Score Time. That comeback set a CEBL record for the largest comeback in the target score ending era.
In target score, with Niagara two points away from victory, Calgary made five consecutive defensive stops to power them en route to a 10-0 run that notched their third consecutive victory to begin the regular season.
“The team finds a way to win,” Surge head coach Nelson Terroba said after the game.
After an early 11-2 run, highlighted by nine points from Javhon Blair, Calgary took control of the game.
Blair finished with a game-high 26 points and 8 rebounds in a losing effort. Lloyd Pandi shot 70 per cent from the field and chipped in with 15 points for Niagara on the night.
“I told myself to come out more aggressive,” Blair said. “The first game I think that I didn’t do that, this game I tried to do that to let our team have a chance at winning.”
With the River Lions converting just two threes in the first half, the Surge responded with four threes and seven offensive rebounds in the second quarter to take a 53-38 lead at halftime.
Although Calgary’s big three—Sean Miller-Moore, Stef Smith, and Simi Shittu—carried most of the weight offensively for Calgary to start the season, combining to score 108 of the Surge’s 156 overall points on the year entering tonight, the bench stepped up for Calgary in this game.
The Surge had 22 bench points on the night, led by Mason Bourcier, who played over 23 minutes and added a season-high seven points and seven assists.
Although, individually, Smith shot 0-7 from the field, Calgary’s big three still managed to score 39 of the Surge’s 85 points.
After halftime, trailing as much as 19 at one point, Niagara slowly started to chop into Calgary’s lead. Pandi had nine of his 15 points in the third, while Eddie Ekiyor’s spark off the bench allowed the River Lions to climb within eight entering the fourth.
“Finally in the second half we started to play with an urgency that you have to have in this league,” said River Lions head coach Vic Raso.
The River Lions took a three point lead into Target Score Time, however, similar to their season opening loss to the Montréal Alliance, the River Lions had trouble keeping Calgary off the offensive glass to secure their first win of the season.
After giving up 17 offensive rebounds to the Alliance, Niagara gave up 16 offensive rebounds tonight—including the game-winning offensive rebound and putback by Trevon Scott.
One point away from victory, Shittu was at the free throw line in Target Score Time to close out the game with two shots. But after missing both free throws, Scott, who finished the game with 14 rebounds, snagged another offensive board and put up a layup to close out Niagara.
“When Simi got on the free throw line, I thought the game was over,” Scott said. “But me being the person I am, and being confident in myself, if that ball comes off the rim I was gonna go get it. I’m going to finish this game for us, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Shittu and Scott combined to have 12 of Calgary’s 16 offensive boards.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” said Raso. “The way we played in the second half is how you have to play basketball all the time.”
Niagara will look to bounce back tomorrow night in the second half of their two-game Alberta road trip in a Wednesday night matchup in Edmonton against the Stingers. Calgary, meanwhile, after playing three games in four days to begin the CEBL season, will play next on Saturday night against the Vancouver Bandits.