The Niagara River Lions capitalized on their first home court advantage of the series, and defeated the London Lightning 124-115 in Game 3 at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines. Niagara outshot the Lightning from the field, three-point range, and the free throw line, to give themselves another playoff date on Friday and stave off elimination.
A River Lions team that was completely dominated in the first two games, played desperate basketball and earned their first playoff victory in franchise history. To the delight of the home crowd, they came out strong and kept London from getting into a rhythm. That allowed Niagara to stay with the Lightning in the first quarter, before gaining a ridiculously hot hand in the second and draining twelve threes.
That gave the River Lions a 66-57 lead at the half – a lead they would never relinquish. The Lightning never went away though, and even crawled back to within four with just two minutes left; but Niagara’s Kris Joseph hit from downtown and drove a dagger through the hearts of the Lightning faithful.
“They shot the heck out of the ball,” said Lightning coach Keith Vassell.
Seven different Niagara players posted double digits, with forward Guillaume Payen Boucard leading the way with 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 assists. He was named player of the game.
Guard Kris Joseph also had a strong game for the River Lions equalling Boucard with 25 points.
Niagara showed incredible resiliency given that senior player Samuel Muldrow picked the most inopportune of times to sign with a team in Australia and leave the team.
Despite the losing effort, Royce White was unstoppable on the boards for the Lightning, pulling down 18. He also led all Lightning scorers with 25, despite shooting just 9 of 21 from the field. Mo Bolden was right behind him with 24, and Kyle Johnson had 20. Marcus Capers had a strong game off the bench with 16 points and 6 rebounds, in a solid 26 minutes.
The two teams get a few days off before squaring off again at the Meridian Centre on Friday night for game four.