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Stingers hold off Surge rally and snap losing skid with win

Mike Nuga Edmonton Stingers Mike Nuga - CEBL

In round two of the CEBL’s Battle of Alberta, it was more of the same as the Edmonton Stingers (5-2) came away with a 91-84 win over the Calgary Surge (2-5) on Friday night.

After handing Calgary an 18-point loss in game one of the CEBL season, Edmonton’s follow-up victory might not have been as convincing – nearly blowing a 20-point lead – but it got the job done in more ways than one. The victory not only snapped a two-game skid for the visiting Stingers, it also kept them a perfect 4-0 on the road.

A pair of bench players led the way for Edmonton as Michael Nuga and Ben Krikke each put up a game-high 18 points. The guard-forward duo was instrumental as they led a second unit that put up 41 points, more than double then that of the Surge.

“We had two tough losses and we knew that we needed to respond,” Nuga said post-game. “It was a testament to our work.”

Their scoring effort was also rewarded with a show of faith. After Edmonton’s lead had dissipated to just seven points in Target Score Time, head coach Jordan Baker inserted Nuga and Krikke back into the game to wrap things up.

It’s safe to say the decision paid off as Krikke secured the victory by hitting the game-sealing jumper.

Meanwhile, Jacob Evans III finished with a double-double of 15 points and 11 rebounds for the Stingers, with Nick Hornsby not far behind with his 16 points and nine rebounds.

“The last four minutes weren’t pretty,” Baker said after the win. “But we had back-to-back losses at home, so it was great to come on the road and pick up a win … tonight we finished possessions.”

For Calgary, Sean Miller-Moore led the way a 16-point and nine-rebound performance. Despite the loss, the team’s leading scorer made history on Friday night as Miller-Moore became the first player in franchise history to score 600 regular season points all-time. Gabe Osabuohien chipped in as well with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting while Justin Lewis added 12 points and six rebounds off the bench.

Entering the contest, Calgary head coach Tyrell Vernon said his team needed to test Edmonton’s “wind” as opposed to the other way around, alluding to how the Stingers ran roughshod all over the Surge for 60 unimpeded paint points (+26) during their season-opening matchup.

And although Calgary was more engaged than the team that lost by 18 points nearly a month ago, it took them until the final frame to really change things.

“Until (Target Score Time), the fight wasn’t there,” Vernon said post-game. “We started the game with an energy that was unacceptable … when our bodies move, we’re really good, when we try to be pretty it doesn’t go in our favour … back to the drawing board.”

The Surge trailed 46-36 after two quarters of play, being down double-digits was once again on account of turnovers leading to easy baskets at the rim. Calgary gave the ball away seven times (-2) as the Stingers rim- ran for a 60 per cent shooting half from two-point range.

Evans III, who had a team-high 10 points at halftime, said their strong start was courtesy of playing “Edmonton basketball.” Which according to the guard meant crashing the glass and running in transition.

It was an astute observation considering the Stingers had grabbed nine offensive rebounds for 11 second chance points through the first two quarters. A stark improvement for a team that typically only grabs nine offensive boards a game, third fewest in the league.

Despite the Surge’s best efforts to flip the script in the second half -- like Corey Davis Jr. who finished with 14 points going on an individual 7-0 run – they couldn’t change the end of the story.

Calgary turned the ball over seven more times in the third quarter, the last of which Hornsby collected before hitting a buzzer-beating jumper that put Edmonton up 69-55.

“(turnovers) were huge,” Lewis said when asked what hurt Calgary’s momentum the most throughout the game. “We got stops on defence, turned it over and it’s like the stop just went away … we have to be more together.”

The forward didn’t stop there, Hornsby scored five more unanswered points to open the fourth as he put the Stingers up 19 points less than a minute into the frame.

With a 16-point lead going into Target Score Time, it looked like Edmonton was on its way to yet another double-digit victory over Calgary.

Credit to the Surge however as they at least made the finish dramatic. The home team went on a 9-2 run that cut the deficit down to single digits and promptly followed that up with a 9-0 run. Miller-Moore’s final layup had the lead down to five, but Calgary couldn’t get another stop as Krikke got a jumper to rattle in.

“We fought but we need to keep that consistent energy to give ourselves a better chance of winning,” Lewis said when asked how things can improve moving forward. “We started slow, we weren’t on the same page … you can’t make mistakes like that against a talented team.”

By game’s end, “Edmonton basketball” had forced 17 turnovers for 22 points (+6) and grabbed 15 offensive rebounds for 20 second chance points (+12).

Up Next

The Surge get back to it on Sunday as they host the Brampton Honey Badgers, for their final home game ahead of a six-game road trip.

As for the Stingers, they stay on the road to visit the Winnipeg Sea Bears on Sunday in a rematch of last year’s West semifinal bout.