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Lightning Strike First In NBL Playoffs

The London Lightning crushed the Niagara River Lions 151-115 in the opening game of the National Basketball League of Canada’s quarterfinals. It was never in doubt. The two teams have no love loss between them, and London used that emotion to dominate the River Lions up and down the court.

Considering the turmoil leading up to the game, the Lightning’s intensity and focus was nothing short of remarkable. In the days leading up to the opener, River Lions owner Richard Petko took pot shots at both the Lightning and the league, which did nothing to dispel the already existing tension between the two squads.

Add to that, the controversy created this week by the Lightning’s Royce White over the league’s most valuable player award, and the ingredients were there for London to potentially start soft. White even wore a sweatshirt in the warm-up with the letters “M.V.P” taped to it.

But they didn’t start soft, and Petko’s disparaging remarks obviously only served as locker room bulletin board type motivation. In fact, the Lightning played arguably their best game of the season, and left it all on the floor at Budweiser Gardens to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five quarterfinals. The 151 points was the most ever recorded in an NBL playoff game.

The Lightning’s Doug Herring Jr. led the way with 22 points and 12 assists, and controlled the game from beginning to end, and at both ends of the court. He was one of eight Lightning players to register double digits. (Garrett Williamson (22 points, six rebounds); Ryan Anderson (20 points, seven assists); Royce White (19 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists); Julian Boyd (17 points); Kyle Johnson (16 points); Marcus Capers (13 points) and Mo Bolden (11 points, 14 rebounds, six assists)).

Lightning Head coach Keith Vassell, was pleased with the well rounded team effort: “The beauty of our team is we have a variety of different guys who can go off. Today – Marcus had a fantastic game, Julian came in and knocked down shots, Mo did a lot of things – blocked shots, grabbed rebounds, knocked down shots… Doug was huge, especially in the first half.”

Despite the performance, Vassell was quick to point out that the Lightning can’t get ahead of themselves with such a quick turnaround before game 2 against the River Lions.

“It’s one game at a time – every game matters, you do the best you can in that game and now you look at the next one. I’m happy with the result and now we keep ourselves going for tomorrow.”

Game two goes Saturday at 7pm at Budweiser Gardens. Tickets are still available at the Budweiser Gardens Box Office or www.lightningbasketball.ca.

About Mark Solway

Storyteller. Community builder, content creator, sports journalist, and a proud Londoner for 40 years.

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