Skip to main content


River Lions strike early, often in dominant victory over Honey Badgers

Nathan Cayo Niagara River Lions Nathan Cayo - Getty Images

The Niagara River Lions have entered the chat.

Niagara came out with a vengeance against their Ontario rival Brampton Honey Badgers on Thursday, forcing the issue early and often en route to a resounding 103-60 victory.

The River Lions stormed to a 15-2 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back during their home opener at the Meridian Centre. To put icing on the cake, they scored the first seven points in Target Score Time, too.

The River Lions, who entered the season among the championship favourites, opened their 2024 campaign with a 74-67 loss to the Honey Badgers on Friday after winning all three of the teams’ contests last season.

For the past six days, then, they’ve been sitting on that defeat in which just two starters scored more than two points.

“Last game was like a pre-season game for us. We found out that we can be very good defensively. We found out that we had clarity issues on offence. And then we just addressed them. We worked really hard over the course of the week,” said River Lions head coach Victor Raso. “It’s validating for the guys to have a bounceback like that because we felt like we left a lot on the table in the first game.”

On Thursday, Niagara flipped the script and looked the powerful part for which it’d been prognosticated, improving its record to 1-1. Scarier still for the rest of the league, the River Lions continue to await the return from overseas of 2022 MVP and Clutch Player of the Year Khalil Ahmad. Brampton fell to 2-1 with the loss.

Omari Moore, a G Leaguer with Raptors 905, was named Player of the Game after sharing the River Lions’ team lead of 18 points while adding eight assists.

“I think tonight we came out with a different level of intensity, a different level of aggressiveness. We had a couple hard days of practice and we really wanted to come out and play our brand of basketball,” Moore said.

Fellow starter Aaryn Rai also scored 18 points, while Antonio Davis Jr., added 16 to put him at 504 for his CEBL career.

“That means a lot,” Davis Jr., said. “I love playing here in the CEBL, so for this to be my third summer and to have 500 points is just an honour. This is a great league and it’s really building and growing and I just love that I’m a part of it.”

By halftime, Niagara was already up 50-29. Up 15 late in the second quarter, the game swung when the River Lions pulled away to extend their lead going into the locker room instead of letting the Honey Badgers hang around.

The edge ballooned to 31 in the third quarter, with the River Lions taking a 78-48 advantage into the final frame.

While Niagara’s win was emphatic, it remained eight points short of the CEBL record for margin of victory set in 2022 at 51 by both Edmonton against Newfoundland and Ottawa against Saskatchewan.

Zane Waterman, who was averaging 27.5 points per game to start the season, was held to just a single point in the first half. The American ended the game with seven points, all via free throws.

Brazilian big man Lucas Siewert, who signed with the Honey Badgers just one day ago, added three points and four rebounds off the bench.

Guard Javonte Cook paced Brampton with 18 points on six-for-15 shooting.

The Honey Badgers were without LJ Thorpe, who averaged 16.5 points in his team’s first two contests, while River Lions starter Jahvon Blair missed the game over a FIBA clearance issue.

Brampton and Niagara’s third and final meeting of the season, which will determine the playoff tiebreaker, takes place in July.

What’s next?

The River Lions return to action with a contest in Scarborough on Saturday, while the Honey Badgers travel to Montreal for a game against the Alliance on Sunday.