Express Drop Close One To Lightning
March 03, 2018
(WINDSOR, ON) – After back-to-back wins over the KW Titans, and the inadvertent cause of the departure of their head coach, the Windsor Express returned home for a Friday night meeting with the London Lightning. Sitting 4.5 games behind the Lightning, the Express have their sights set on the division leading squad.
In the opening minutes of the game, Windsor forced the play into the London key while the Lightning relied on dropping bombs for their scoring. By the halfway point in the quarter, both strategies seemed effective as Windsor held a scant 18-16 lead.
The tit-for-tat early scoring was put on hold during the middle minutes of the period as the two teams paid more attention to defense. Both Logan Stutz and Braylon Rayson drove for buckets and a foul as time wound down to help bring the fans back into the game. Omar Strong followed them with a shot from outside to put Windsor in front 33-31 at the buzzer.
Game stats for the opening quarter found the teams with identical 13-for-24 shooting from the field, though London connected on 5 from beyond the arc while Windsor went to the line 6 times. Windsor’s Demontre Harris quietly put up 10 points while Doug Herring Jr accumulated 12 for London.
The 2nd quarter matched the intensity of the latter half of the 1st quarter. After 4 minutes of play, a paltry 7 combined points were scored. Maurice Jones took advantage of a broken play and dropped a basket from the top of the key and a Stutz hit from outside rounded out the Express highlights.
Twice during the quarter Strong was tapped to shoot London technical fouls, dropping both opportunities with ease. When referee Geoff Astles warned Kirk Williams Jr, a prolonged and heated discussion ensued with the London players accompanied by a chorus of boos from the crowd. Then a pair of technicals were called, one to each side.
By the half time sounder, somehow the teams had eased their way into a 61-60 London lead.
London turned up the heat to open the 2nd half, running out in front of the Express by as much as 12 points. Windsor’s Achilles Heel was giving up an abundance of second chances to the Lightning, who kept putting them away. The bad blood continued, as well, with bodies hitting the floor almost every play. It was evident in the microcosm that was the on-going battle between Royce White and Stutz.
“I was just trying to play my game. That’s it,” said Stutz. “He’s tough. He’s tough to guard. I wish I could have hit a couple more of my shots. That would have helped us win. But, that’s just the way it went tonight.”
To Windsor’s credit, they found themselves and made a determined effort on defence while driving the basket on offense. With 1:00 on the clock, Windsor trailed by just 5 and at the horn London led 95-91.
“We have to be able to get ourselves ready and moving in the third quarter,” Windsor head coach Bill Jones said. “It takes 3 or 4 minutes for guys to get back into the game. We started out OK, but at the mid-point of the quarter we broke down, so that’s something we gotta correct.”
In the 4th, the Express dropped back to trail by 8 under the continued harassment by London. Almost at will, the Lightning cleaned the glass at both ends of the court. And in Windsor’s end they made the opportunity count. The Lightning out-rebounded Windsor 44-36 through the game.
Just 2 points separated the teams, to London’s advantage, with 26 seconds on the clock and the Lightning turning the ball over in the Windsor back court. Then Jones tied it up and bedlam rained down from the seats; 13.3 seconds to play.
“The one thing about our group is that they compete,” Jones said. “They didn’t quit. It would have been easy for them to throw in the towel, to say, ‘We can’t win tonight.’ But they competed.”
Kyle Johnson hit for a deep 3, leaving Windsor with time for just an inbound play to try to tie again. Shaquille Keith rimmed out from the side court and the horn ended all hope.
“They had to hit tough shots to win it,” said Stutz. “Our heads are up. We’re fine and we have another one we gotta get tomorrow.”
Stutz finished with 17 points and 9 boards in just 24 minutes. White dropped 21 points to go with 9 rebounds for London. Garrett Williamson, however, shot the game-high 27 points for the visitors while Ryan Anderson recorded a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds.
Jones was the player of the game for Windsor with 22 points, 5 assists, and 6 steals. Strong also put up 22 points for the Express, coming off the bench. Chad Frazier (14), Harris (12), Keith (11), and Rayson (10) all scored in the double digits.
“We got a game tomorrow, we gotta be able to wash this one off, and we gotta be able to move forward and understand that each possession of each game is important,” said Jones.
Despite the loss last night, the Express has clinched a playoff spot in the Central, along with the Lightning and St John’s, leaving Kitchener-Waterloo and Niagara to battle it out for the final post season spot. Windsor twice defeated the Titans last week, inadvertently leading to the release of head coach Serge Langis. They’ll now try to make life difficult for Niagara as they host the 4th place River Lions tonight at 7pm.