(WINDSOR, ON) - The Windsor Express were riding their hottest streak of the season. After winning five of their last six games Windsor found themselves in third place in the Central Division and on their way to a .500 winning percentage. For the first time this season the Niagara River Lions came to Windsor. Niagara was in last place in the Central Division coming into the game despite three of their five wins coming against Windsor this season.
This game also marked the return of two of the franchises best players. Both Chris Commons and Kirk Williams Jr returned to the WFCU Centre, this time as members of the Niagara River Lions. Commons won two championships with the Express and is the franchise leader in points, rebounds and games played. Williams Jr was the 2015 NBL Canada Finals MVP.
It was obvious the game plan for Windsor was to feed the middle early. Niagara received a steady diet of both Nick Evans and DeAndre Thomas early. The two big men scored a combined 18 points in the first half, with Evans scoring the most points of any Express player. Windsor had one of their worst defensive halves of the season. In the first 24 minutes Niagara went on runs of 11-2, 11-5 and 14-0, allowing them to get out to a 20 point halftime lead. Just two nights after an excellent performance defending the perimeter Windsor allowed four first half threes and was out rebounded 26-19.
Windsor opened the 2nd half on a 12-4 run. It was interior defence that plagued Windsor in the third quarter, as Niagara was able to answer every Express run with a run of their own. Windsor was facing a 20 point deficit with only 12 minutes left to play. Windsor's play was best categorized as sloppy in the fourth quarter. As the River Lions lead grew, the team began to play more loosely, lobbing alley-oop dunks and making highlight reel plays. Express forward Wally Ellenson did everything he could to keep his team in the game, adding a trio of deep threes, a fast break reverse dunk and a chase down block off the glass in the final minutes of play. Windsor cut the lead down to eight with under a minute to play, but their efforts were too little too late.
The final score was 107-98 Niagara over Windsor.
Windsor's player of the game in the losing effort was Juan Pattillo who gave his team 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists. Pattillo was one of six Express players to score in double digits, including a 34 point combined performance from DeAndre Thomas and Nick Evans. Darren Duncan was one point short of a double-double, registering 9 points and 11 assists.
Chris Commons had a big day against his former team. Commons had a team high 22 points to go with his 4 rebounds and 5 assists. Kirk Williams Jr added 7 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists.
Windsor will get a shot at revenge and an opportunity to start another winning streak when they play the Niagara River Lions again at home on this Saturday, February 25th at the WFCU Centre. Tip-off is 7:00 PM.