Honey Badgers defeat Alliance to jump ahead in race for CEBL playoffs
Clutch performances from Christian Vital and Koby McEwen fuelled the Brampton Honey Badgers to an important 89-69 win over the Montréal Alliance at Verdun Auditorium on Sunday.
The win puts the Honey Badgers’ in the driver’s seat for the final Eastern Conference spot in the CEBL Playoffs. However, Montréal still has a chance to catch Brampton and make the postseason.
“It [was] an important game for us. We realized today, for us, was a playoff game for that last spot,” McEwen said post-game. “But we do still got a couple games. So that's the goal. Today was just the first step.”
The Alliance claimed the first lead of the afternoon at 2-0 in their final home game of the season, but trailed for the rest of the game once the defending champion Honey Badgers seized the advantage early in the first quarter.
“We've lost maybe two [or] three games from start to finish where I felt … this is gonna be a long night. Today was one of those nights, unfortunately,” Montréal head coach Derrick Alston Jr. said. “We're a better team than that. We know it, they know it. And they were sitting here waiting for us – you could tell they had us scouted really well.”
Brampton shut down the Montréal offence in the win, limiting them to 33 per cent shooting from the floor and 28 per cent from long range. The Honey Badgers also held Alliance star Ahmed Hill to no field goals for almost three quarters of action.
“Tonight was a great team win for us. We've been playing pretty well the past four games and we finally put together a pretty pretty darn good game,” Brampton head coach Antoine Broxsie said.
The backcourt of Vital and McEwen was dominant for the Honey Badgers in the win. Vital led the way with a game-high 27 points on 9-18 shooting from the field and 5-10 from three, accompanied by eight rebounds, five assists and five steals. McEwen also stuffed the stat sheet with 21 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals.
After a scorching start to the game, the Honey Badgers’ offence slowed in the second half and finished at 47 per cent from the floor and 39 per cent from deep. Prince Oduro was the only other Brampton player to reach double digits with 10 points and four rebounds in a starting role.
Meanwhile, Hill paced the Alliance offence despite an off-night. The CEBL’s fourth leading scorer entering the contest netted 17 points on 4-19 shooting from the field, 2 -8 from three and 7-7 at the free throw line.
Treveon Graham was close behind with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Elijah Ifejeh added an efficient 12 points to the Montréal attack.
Brampton controlled the paint in Sunday’s contest and capitalized off of Montréal mistakes. They outscored the Alliance 40-26 inside while scoring 22 points from turnovers.
The game started with a feeling-out process before the Honey Badgers jumped in front decisively after a 10-2 run. A pair of timely threes from Cayo and Graham made it a one-possession game again, but the Honey Badgers answered with free throws from Shamiel Stevenson and a triple from Vital. A putback from Montréal ‘s Derek Brown Jr. closed the quarter with the Alliance trailing 26-20.
Brampton was on fire to start the second quarter. McEwen and Vital each drained a triple and held Montréal scoreless in the opening three minutes. A trifecta from Graham cut the deficit to seven points, but Brampton responded with a 9-0 run powered by a pair of McEwen and-ones and a triple from Vital. The Honey Badgers led by as many as 15, but took a 51-39 advantage into the locker room.
The defending champions were red-hot in the first half. They shot 56 per cent from the field and 54 per cent from long range in the opening 20 minutes, with their backcourt shouldering the load offensively. Vital scored 18 points on 7-9 shooting while McEwen put up 16 points on 5-7 shooting. Hill struggled for Montréal with five points while going 0-9 from the field.
Offence was hard to come by to start the third quarter. However, an and-one from Ifejeh opened the floodgates slightly. Vital finished a layup shortly after and McEwen drilled a corner three to give Brampton their largest lead of the night to that point at 18. Hill connected on his first field goal to pull the Alliance closer, but the Honey Badgers closed the quarter with back-to-back buckets that included a buzzer-beating slam from Stevenson. The Honey Badgers carried a 72-54 lead into the fourth.
The final frame started with a three for Montréal but the Honey Badgers hit back and took a 19-point lead. However, Hill got himself going late for the Alliance. He scored seven consecutive points for the squad to force a Brampton timeout. Vital was whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul to initiate target score time and Graham hit one of two free throws to make it 78-65 for the Honey Badgers with a goal of 87 points.
Brampton breezed to victory in target time with buckets from McEwen, Cody John, Zane Waterman and the game-winning three from Vital.
The Honey Badgers improve to 7-10 on the season and take over fourth place in the Eastern Conference, while Montréal falls into fifth at 7-12.
Up next, the Alliance will head to Meridian Centre on Friday (July 28) for their regular season finale against the Niagara River Lions. Brampton will play a home-and-home with Scarborough before they also finish their season against Niagara next weekend.