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Surge host Shooting Stars in rematch of 2023 championship final

Surge vs. Shooting Stars CEBL Surge vs. Shooting Stars CEBL - CEBL

Less than a year removed from their clash for a CEBL title, the Calgary Surge (0-1) and Scarborough Shooting Stars (0-2) face-off in a rematch at WinSport Event Centre on Wednesday night.

Live coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. local / 9:00 p.m. ET on TSN in Canada and NLSE in the United States. Fans looking to take in the action can also stream the game on CEBL+ powered by BetVictor, TSN+, Courtside 1891 and on the CEBL mobile app available for iOS and Android devices. 

Heading into the game, both squads are still in search of their first win of the year -- a stark difference from 2023 when both Scarborough and Calgary each won their season opening contests.

The Surge enter the night following a 97-79 loss to the Edmonton Stingers in which they got thoroughly outpaced. The Stingers made it a point of emphasis to up the tempo every chance they could and were helped by the fact that Calgary also gave the ball away 23 times (most turnovers in a single game this season). The end result was 60 points in the paint (+26) for Edmonton as they carved out a lop-sided victory.

If the Surge are going to pick up win No. 1 of the season against the Shooting Stars, they’ll need to start by applying more resistance at the rim. Thankfully for Calgary fans, that inside presence may have just arrived in the form of Troy Baxter Jr., the team’s latest addition.

The 6-foot-9 forward, signed on Tuesday, brings 71 games of NBA G League experience and is coming off a season with the Manawatu Jets of New Zealand’s NBL where he averaged 17.4 points, five rebounds and a steal through eight games. His combination of length and athleticism makes Baxter Jr. a versatile option that can provide the Surge a spark inside and out.

Meanwhile, the defending champions are coming off two winnable games they ultimately let slip away. In their most recent defeat, Scarborough led by as many as 13 points in the third quarter before losing 88-83 to the Vancouver Bandits.

Similar to the Surge’s previous game, the Shooting Stars lost the battle at the rim, and it eventually cost them. Despite hitting eight more threes than Vancouver, Scarborough got thoroughly outworked in the paint as they made 10 less two-pointers and were -16 on points in the paint. 

Which, given the Shooting Stars affinity for perimeter play (top-three in three-point attempts, makes and percentage), wasn’t a surprise but did play a role in the Bandits comeback. Vancouver’s aggression earned 21 free throw attempts to Scarborough’s seven and the 11 extra points they scored as a result proved to be a tipping point in the outcome. 

Also, like Calgary, turnovers have been an issue for the Shooting Stars in their back-to-back losses. Scarborough leads the league with 15.5 turnovers amongst all teams to have played at least two games and against Vancouver their three giveaways in Target Score Time wasted what could’ve been a solid first win.

Key matchup

This contest will feature a matchup between two of the league’s top wing players in Justin Lewis and Jackson Rowe facing off. 

In Calgary’s only game so far, and his CEBL debut, Lewis led the way with an impressive 16 points on shooting splits of 62/66/80 per cent to go with his eight rebounds.

Not to be outdone, Rowe’s been Scarborough’s leading scorer in both of their contests so far. The 2023 CEBL All-Canadian is averaging 18.5 points, 10 rebounds, 1.5 steals and a block through two games. Against Vancouver Rowe put up a game high 20 points as part of a second consecutive double-double.

Both have shown they can score at a high rate of efficiency and are willing to shoulder most of the offensive load for their squad. Now it’s time for one of them to turn translate their individual production into a team victory.

2023 season series

Last year, Scarborough had Calgary’s number through their two matchups. The Shooting Starts won both contests and did so pretty handily, winning by an average margin of 13 points. However, 2023’s results between the cross-conference opponents holds little bearing on Wednesday’s affair considering Scarborough will be without the services of Cat Barber.

The 2023 All-CEBL first teamer found plenty of success against the Surge as he led both games in scoring with 27 points in their lone regular season contest and 23 points in the Championship Final. Barber’s 25 points per game against Calgary were the second most he averaged again any opponent in 2023. 

Barber is currently wrapping up his season with FC Porto of the Portugal-Liga Betclic League.