BlackJacks stun Honey Badgers with comeback win in CEBL season opener
Kadre Gray’s game-winning three capped of a 27-point, five rebound, and nine assist performance that led the Ottawa BlackJacks (1-0) to a 95-93 comeback against the Brampton Honey Badgers (0-1) in CEBL action on Wednesday night.
The BlackJacks were down by eight points heading into Target Score Time (86-78) but Gray’s poise down the stretch proved pivotal as he put up seven points and three assists in Target Score time.
“Coaches instilled confidence in me to be aggressive,” said Gray as he addressed media post-game. “I started the game out as a facilitator...they [coaches] get on me about that but honestly we just had faith the whole time that we’d win the game.”
Other strong performances for Ottawa included forward Zena Edosomwan who put up a double-double with 16 points, 10 rebounds, and five blocks. Guard Michael Flowers also chipped in with 20 points, three rebounds, and three assists.
Brampton got multiple contributions on the night, notably reigning finals MVP Christian Vital who had 24 points, three rebounds, five assists, and five steals. Prince Oduro who was also a bright spot for the team, putting up a double-double of his own, 17 points and 12 rebounds, while going 8-11 from the field.
This game was all about runs and timely offense. In the first, Prince Oduro scored the first six points for Brampton making his presence felt inside the paint. Once he subbed out, Ottawa began driving at the basket and finding their rhythm. Notably, Flowers caught fire as he scored 12 straight points capping off a 7-2 run, to keep the BlackJacks within one, 27-26.
Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Koby McEwen followed that up by putting up 10 of his 19 points on the night in the second quarter. Vital then ended the frame with a four-point play after drilling a three and making a free-throw to give Brampton the 56-45 lead at half.
Ottawa went down as many as 12 points in the third quarter but never stopped applying pressure. Guard Cole Syllas started the second half for the BlackJacks after Elijah Pemberton left late in the second quarter due to a hard fall. The rookie out of Queen’s University made the most of the opportunity as he scored six points in the quarter cutting Brampton’s lead down to three at 71-68.
A game like this is why the CEBL uses Target Score Eneding. Without the pressure of the game-clock winding down the BlackJacks methodically worked their way back. Rather than settling for threes looking for homerun plays with time being against them, Ottawa did the little things and scored out of high-percentage shots.
Despite being outshot from the field and from distance, Ottawa was able to pull out the win. They out-rebounded Brampton 46-37 on the night, leading to 14 more second chance points. Their aggressiveness in the paint also helped them get 10 more free-throw attempts than the Honey Badgers.
Despite the loss, Brampton’s Vital seemed confident the team would have no issues bouncing back.
“We don’t have any problems,” said Vital post-game. “We’re not worried about any teams in the league...good for them, they got their win.”
Brampton will be back in action Friday night at home against the Scarborough Shooting Stars. Ottawa will take on the Montreal Alliance on Sunday May 24.