The Saskatchewan Rattlers hit the road for the first time this season as they take on the Niagara River Lions from the Meridian Centre on Saturday at 7:30 pm ET.
Tonight’s game will be the first of two matchups between the teams in 2023. Last year they faced-off three times and Saskatchewan never lost. Although the Rattlers swept the season series, the games were tightly contested with the average margin of victory being 3.3 points.
Saskatchewan outshot Niagara from the three-point line in every single one of those matchups. Which is especially important, considering how the River Lions dominated the battle inside the paint. Niagara was a +30 on interior points throughout the series but never made more than eight threes in any of the games. With each contest being decided by so few points, the lack of production from beyond the arch cost the River Lions.
If you fast-forward to this season, the theme of poor shooting from beyond the arch continues to plague Niagara. They’re currently averaging 25.7 per cent from three, making only seven a game.
However, the team will enter this game with some serious reinforcement. The 2022 CEBL MVP Khalil Ahmad will make his debut for the squad on Saturday. After finishing up his overseas commitments with Israel’s Hapoel Beer Sheva, the guard is set to give this struggling River Lions’ offense a major boost.
Last season Ahmad led the league with 20.7 points per game to go with his team-high 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals (fourth best in the league). He did so while shooting an efficient 45 per cent from the field and serviceable 32 per cent from three. If he can replicate those numbers, it will give Niagara the production they’ve been sorely missing.
Saskatchewan comes into this matchup having played only one game so far this season. However, they looked very impressive as they dominated the Vancouver Bandits 109-85, outscoring their opponents in every quarter.
In that game, the team was efficient scoring the ball, converting on over 40 per cent of their shots from both the field and beyond the arch. The Rattlers knocked down 22 triples on the night, 15 more than the Bandits.
The team got contributions all around, as they had five different players hit double-digits. Starting guard Justin Wright-Foreman scored 23 points to go with eight assists on an impressive 7-11 shooting night. He was joined by forward Jermel Kennedy who put up 22 points, and sixth-man Michael Nuga who dropped 20.
This game will seemingly come down to whether or not Niagara will be able to keep up with Saskatchewan’s high-powered offense.