Edward Ekiyor’s 17 points off the bench led the Niagara River Lions (2-3) to their second win in a row as they picked up a 99-81 win over the Scarborough Shooting Stars (1-4) on Thursday night.
The forward has seemingly figured things out, marked by his third consecutive game hitting double-digit scoring. He didso while nearly putting up a double-double with nine rebounds and three assists.
Ekiyor was the catalyst for Niagara’s win in more ways than one. Whether it was scoring on an efficient 6-8 shooting,taking a charge on Cat Barber when he started to get things going, or doing the dirty work on the glass, he was ready to dowhatever his team needed.
“A lot of it is bringing energy,” said Ekiyor post-game. “Whatever we need on any given day. Sometimes it’s going to bedefense, sometimes it’s going to be scoring.”
“We have a really deep team, we got lots of guys who can play, and I just try to bring whatever I can. The main thingcomes from hustling and bringing that energy on the defensive end.”
Itwas a win by committee type of game for the River Lions as they had five players score 13 or more points, two of thoseperformances coming from the second unit. Khalil Ahmad had another impressive outing in his second game back withthe club, notching 17 points and 7 assists. While his backcourt partner Jahvon Henry-Blair tallied his first double-doubleof the season with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
For the Shooting Stars it was Kameron Chatman who led the way with 17 points and nine rebounds in the forward’s firststart this season. Zeke Moore also provided 14 points off the bench, while the team’s top-scorer in Cat Barber struggledon the night scoring 13 points on 38 per cent shooting.
A major omission for Scarborough in this game was the other half of the team’s guard duo in Jalen Harris. His 17.3 pointsper game were missed as he was a late scratch, heading to Westchester as part of NBA G-League minicamp.
Niagara brought an intensity to start this game that immediately gave Scarborough problems. The Shooting Stars couldnot find a groove offensively and ended up shooting a meager 27 per cent from the field on just six makes.
Scarborough’s struggles from the field in conjunction with an inability to slow down their opponents resulted in a 13-4run in favour of the River Lions right out the gates. Ekiyor did everything he could to build on that run as the forwardscored eight points in the frame, leading his team to a 26-15 lead going into the second quarter.
It was looking like more of the same to start the second, but Cat Barber woke up and willed his team back into the game.After going scoreless in the first, the lead guard went on an 8-0 run by himself to make it a three-point game, 35-32 withfour minutes remaining in the half.
However, that’s asfar as the comeback got as back-to-back Patrick Whelan threes, part of his own 8-0 run, extendedNiagara’s lead into double-digits again. The forward matched his game-high for this season before the first half had evenended, as the 13 points gave the River Lions a 49-36 lead at the break.
The third quarter was looking like more of the same as Scarborough couldn’t put together a sustained drive to cutNiagara’s lead. A big reason for that was their lackluster shooting from beyond the arch. Despite making more two-point baskets than Niagara did through three quarters, the team made just five triples on 22 attempts. They would go on to makejust one more three the rest of the way, finishing at 23 per cent shooting.
Despite their struggles, the Shooting Stars showed some resiliency towards theend of the frame. After being down 10points for what felt like the entirety of the third quarter, the Shooting Stars went on a 6-0 run making in 68-62 headinginto the fourth.
On the other side, the River Lions demonstrated some poise as they started thefinal frame looking unphased by that run.E.J. Onu drilled back-to-back threes to start the quarter immediately giving his team their double-digit lead back.
A lead that Niagara wouldn’t surrender the rest of the way as the River Lions extended their lead to 15 points heading intoTarget Score Time, and then the final frame ending rather quickly. Ahmad did what he’s always done, and that isproducing in the clutch. He scored Niagara’s final four points, ending the game at the free-throw line after being fouled onthree-point attempt, 99-81 the final.
At the quarter mark of the season, despite their obvious lack of results, this Scarborough team isn’t looking to makeexcuses, rather build on what they can through this rough patch.
“We’ve been struggling to start this season trying to find our niche and rhythm,” said Chatman after the team’s fourthstraight loss. “Taking it one game at a time and taking the wins from the losses and learning from it.”
“This whole season is back-to-back and quick, so we haveto get over it. Take those wins and losses with us and applyingwhat we can on the next night.”
The River Lions will look to continue their win-streak as they stay home on Saturday to take on the Vancouver Bandits from the Meridian Centre. The Shooting Stars will return to action on Sunday where they’ll stay on the road and take onthe Montréal Alliance.