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Stingers erupt in Target Score Time to spoil BlackJacks’ home opener

Edmonton Stingers Edmonton Stingers - CEBL

The Edmonton Stingers may be enjoying the role of spoiler.

Edmonton beat Ottawa 92-84 in the BlackJacks’ home opener at The Arena at TD Place on Wednesday, running away with the victory after entering Target Score Time tied at 81.

The Stingers improved to 2-0 on the year after taking down the Surge in front of a CEBL-record crowd in Calgary’s first home game. Ottawa, meanwhile, dropped to 0-2.

What had mostly been a tight game throughout tilted Edmonton’s way immediately in Target Score Time.

Brody Clarke opened the proceedings for the Stingers by swishing a triple, and ex-NBAer Jacobs Evans III added another two possessions later as Edmonton quickly put itself up 87-81 and one score away from victory.

After the BlackJacks climbed back within three points, Adika Peter-McNeilly made a long jumper that initially seemed like a three-pointer, but replay confirmed that the Canadian had one foot on the line. No matter — fellow guard Davion Warren came back with a three-pointer of his own on the team’s next possession to seal the win.

“A little flat in the first half, but I liked that we kind of put it together and started playing together in the second,” Clarke said. “Shared the ball a lot – I think we had a lot of assists — and made some open shots, played well in transition.”

Indeed, Edmonton racked up 20 assists, accounting for over half of its field goals.

Peter-McNeilly was named Player of the Game after coming off the bench to lead Edmonton with 19 points on efficient six-of-eight shooting.

The Toronto native also posted a team-best plus-13 mark, helping turn the tide of the game in Edmonton’s favour after entering the game in the first quarter.

“He’s a guy, we’re gonna play him as much as we can, get as much mileage out of him as we can. It’s not often during Target Score Time he’s not gonna be out on the floor for us. His leadership, his shot-making abilities,” Stingers head coach Jordan Baker said. “I really believed that he was gonna knock down that three. I had to challenge even though everyone was telling me it was a two.”

Clarke paced Stingers starters with 18 points, while forward Nick Hornsby added seven points and nine rebounds in a team-high 30 minutes.

Perhaps boosted by its home crowd, the BlackJacks came out firing in search of their first win. Isaih Moore, who only signed with Ottawa yesterday and was playing in his first-ever CEBL game, opened the contest by slamming home an alley-oop pass from starting guard Yasiin Joseph.

“The team figured out I could jump my first day – I’ve only been in Canada about five days — so yeah, they figured out I could jump and coach [James Derouin] thought that’d be a good play call to get the team hyped, the fans hyped and into it,” Moore said.

Added Derouin: “He was a fan favourite on the first play.”

Moore went on to score the BlackJacks’ first seven points and Ottawa raced to a 28-17 early in the second quarter.

But Edmonton slowly chipped away, and the teams were tied at halftime and after the third quarter.

Until Target Score Time, the game continued on a seesaw. That’s when the Clarke three-pointer seemed to ignite the Stingers.

But Ottawa, after being blown out in its season opener against the Brampton Honey Badgers, appeared more confident and composed, perhaps energized by their last-minute addition in Moore.

“Big improvement from Sunday. Energy level was considerably better. Obviously some of the new additions, in particular Isaih, made a huge a difference out there. But similar issues defensively,” Derouin said. “That second quarter … seemed to take the air out of the gym as well, the ease with which they were scoring, and seemed to just sort of kill the momentum.”

The BlackJacks are also awaiting the return of 2023 starters Deng Adel and Zena Edosomwan, who are currently completing their professional seasons overseas.

While they await reinforcements, Ottawa may be forced to move forward without Joseph, a Carleton graduate who exited the game in the third quarter with an elbow injury and did not return.

Derouin added that Adel and Edosomwan won’t return to the court in time for the team’s next game Saturday in Winnipeg, but are expected to be back for the following contest.

What’s next?

The Stingers complete their road trip with a stop in Montreal for a Thursday game against the Alliance before returning to Edmonton for their own home opener on Sunday against Saskatchewan. The BlackJacks next head to Winnipeg for a meeting with the Sea Bears on Saturday.