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River Lions snap Sea Bears three-game win streak

Niagara River Lions Jahvon Blair - CEBL Photos

Jahvon Blair’s 21 points helped the Niagara River Lions (2-2) pick up a 101-94 win on Thursday night, snapping the Winnipeg Sea Bears (3-2) three-game win streak in the process.

It was an eventful game for the third-year CEBL guard, not only because it was his second consecutive 20-point performance but also because he joined an exclusive club. By hitting a floater at the 8:38 mark of the first quarter, Blair became just the 25th player in league history to score 500 regular season points all-time – 340 of which have come as a member of the River Lions.

“It feels good,” Blair said reflecting on his milestone night postgame. “And it feels even better because we won tonight too.”

Niagara got contributions from everyone in the victory as every player to check in scored at least five points. Aaryn Rai did the most damage after Blair, as he put up 20 points, five rebounds and two steals off the bench and T.J. Lall chipped in with 14 points and eight rebounds.

On the other side, Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson led the way for Winnipeg as he put up a game-high 24 points and six assists. 18 of those points came in the second half as the lead guard stepped up in the absence of Teddy Allen who was ejected late in the second with just eight points.

David Muenkat had his best game as a Sea Bear as he put up 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench. Mason Bourcier joined the other two as Winnipeg’s only double-digit scorers with his 13 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting.

Fans were treated to a back-and-forth affair right from the opening tip as Winnipeg and Niagara traded leads 10 times throughout the opening quarter. The Sea Bears led by as many as six points through the frame but by the time the dust settled the River Lions were up 35-31.

Niagara finished the quarter on an 11-5 run, courtesy of three consecutive triples, before Jordan Tchuente wrapped up the effort with a steal and bucket in the final seconds. He scored the River Lions final five as part of 10 points in the first quarter.

The exchanging of leads didn’t continue throughout the second quarter however, as Niagara went ahead by as many as 14 points before going into halftime up 61-52. It wasn’t their production from outside the arc like in the first, but a strong inside game that helped the River Lions take the game’s first double-digit lead.

Niagara finished the first half plus-18 on points in the paint, overcoming the fact they didn’t hit a single three in the second quarter. It was an adjustment on their part, reacting to Winnipeg’s drop coverage and using the open space in the mid-range, finishing the half with 17 two-point makes on a 61 per cent clip.

By the end of the game the River Lions’ edge scoring inside ballooned to a +30 advantage on paint points.

“It’s exactly what we expected,” Niagara head coach Victor Raso said after the game on seeing Winnipeg in a drop coverage. “We did a great job against it, we scored at the rim … over and over, it’s what we prepared to do.”

Meanwhile, Allen was held scoreless in the frame and was clearly frustrated by that fact, as he was tossed at the 2:55 mark following a second technical foul. If facing a nine-point deficit wasn’t challenging enough for the Sea Bears coming out of halftime, they ended up having to do it without the league’s top scorer (34.5 points per game).

And credit to Winnipeg as they got the lead down to as low as two points before the end of the third quarter, which ended with them trailing 78-72. The Sea Bears’ biggest adjustment came on the defensive end as they switched into a zone defence that paid immediate dividends.

The River Lions went scoreless through the first two minutes of the third and put up 17 total points, their fewest in any of the four quarters on Thursday. 

It wasn’t just their ability to get stops that swung momentum in favour of Winnipeg it was also the leadership of Ogungbemi-Jackson. The Sea Bears’ guard scored nine points in the frame as he got things within striking distance.

Winnipeg’s comeback effort continued in the fourth as a Hildebrandt triple at the 6:59 mark capped off an 8-3 run and cut the lead down to just one point. A valiant push but it did little to waver the Niagara as they responded like they had all night. The River Lions used an 11-3 run of their own to go into Target Score Time ahead 92-83.

And although Ogungbemi-Jackson’s six points in the stoppage period led one last push for Winnipeg they ultimately saw their win streak come to an end following a Blair layup that was blocked but called a goaltend.

The Sea Bears tried to overcome the absence of Allen as best they could, with all nine of their players scoring in the end, but it wasn’t their offence that fell short, it was their defence. Specifically on the glass, Winnipeg finished minus-10 on rebounds and gave up 20 offensive boards (-5) to Niagara.

It allowed the River Lions to score 22 second chance points (+11) and put up 10 extra field goals inside the arc.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” Raso said after his team’s second win through the first quarter of the season. “Our team is capable in winning in a bunch of different ways … I like where we’re at and we have a former player of the year returning soon.”

Up Next

Winnipeg looks to get back in the win column on Sunday as they stay on the road for a third consecutive game, taking on the Calgary Surge.

Meanwhile, Niagara start a three-game road trip against the other Alberta ball club, taking on the Edmonton Stingers on Sunday.