In a potential playoff preview, the defending champion Brampton Honey Badgers (-138) will host the Niagara River Lions (+102) in their final home game of the season at CAA Centre at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday.
The game will be available for streaming on TSN+, CEBL+ powered by BetVictor and on the CEBL Mobile app available on iOS and Android devices.
It’s the final game of the regular season for Niagara and the penultimate game for Brampton after their matchup with Scarborough last night was postponed to Monday (July 31). Both teams have their playoff berths and seeds secured heading into Saturday’s clash. They also come into the game on hot streaks with Niagara winning three in a row and Brampton two.
While the Honey Badgers matchup with the Shooting Stars last night was put on hold, the River Lions defeated the Montréal Alliance 98-91 to ensure a first-place finish in the Eastern Conference. As top seed, Niagara books a trip to Vancouver for CEBL Championship Weekend from August 11-13 and earns a bye to the Eastern Conference Final.
Reigning CEBL MVP Khalil Ahmad dropped a game-high 33 points and hit his league-best eighth game winner of the season to lead the team to victory over the Alliance. Niagara guard Jahvon Blair was also incredible with 18 points on 6-12 shooting from the field and 5-9 from deep. Meanwhile, forward TJ Lall stuffed the stat sheet with five points, 12 rebounds, eight assists, three blocks and one steal while finishing with the game’s best plus/minus at 14.
With a win on Saturday, Niagara could close the season with the best record in the league. The River Lions come into the game at 12-7, in a battle with Western foes from Winnipeg (12-7 ) and Calgary (11-8).
Meanwhile, Brampton has the four seed in the East locked up after they eliminated Montréal with a win over Scarborough on Wednesday night. The Honey Badgers will await their opponent in the play-in game, with Ottawa and Scarborough battling for second place in the conference.
Shamiel Stevenson and Christian Vital carried the Honey Badgers to a win over the Shooting Stars earlier in the week. Stevenson played his best game of the season with 28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and one steal. Meanwhile, Vital tallied 22 points, six rebounds and three steals.
The Honey Badgers will aim to finish the season as a .500 team as they enter Saturday’s game at 8-10. Beyond Vital’s 20.7 points per game, Brampton relies on reigning CEBL Sixth Man of the Year Koby McEwen and big man Prince Oduro.
McEwen has started all 18 games for the Honey Badgers this summer and averages 14.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists on the campaign. Meanwhile, Oduro has stepped up in the absence of paint beast Jeremiah Tilmon Jr. and averages just over eight points and seven rebounds.
On Saturday, Brampton will look to solve Niagara for the first time this season. It’s the third meeting of the month between the two squads, with the River Lions emerging from a home-and-home with the Honey Badgers victorious earlier in July.
At CAA Centre on July 5, a 23-point night from Ahmad and a double-double from EJ Onu led Niagara to a 101-84 win. In the following game at Meridian Centre on July 7, a balanced attack with five players in double-digits fuelled an 87-79 victory for the River Lions.
With a spot in Championship Weekend secured, Niagara head coach Victor Raso was unsure about resting players after Friday’s win. With two games left in the regular season, lineup strategies for Brampton bench boss Antoine Broxsie are unknown as well.
However, there are stakes for each squad’s star point guard on Saturday. Vital and Ahmad are both grappling for the 2023 steals crown. Vital ranks first in the CEBL in both steals per game at 2.5 and total steals at 42 in 17 games played. Ahmad is close behind at 2.4 per game and 39 on the season.
The worst Vital could finish if he plays the final two games and doesn’t record a steal is 2.2 per game while the worst Ahmad could finish is 2.29. Ahmad would match Vital’s current average with three steals on Saturday.
Following the matchup, the River Lions will have almost two weeks off before the Eastern Conference Final in Langley while the Honey Badgers will close the regular season in Scarborough on Monday.
All games are available for streaming on TSN+, CEBL+ powered by BetVictor and on the CEBL Mobile app available on iOS and Android devices.