(WINDSOR, ON) – The drive to repeat as NBLC champs began last night as the Windsor Express hosted the Halifax Rainmen in game 1 of the league finals. The Express started out strong but had to stave off a late surge by the Rainmen before enjoying a 113-104 victory to take the early series lead.
Out of the gate, Windsor built a 16-7 lead by the mid-point of the 1st quarter, but settled for a 6-point buffer at the end of 12 minutes, 28-22. The Express enjoyed their biggest lead of the game in the 2nd frame as it swelled to a 45-30 margin. Again, however, the Rainmen would not go away and the visitors whittled away and trailed by just 7 at the half.
The 3rd quarter was all Halifax as the boys in blue continued their assault against Windsor’s lead. The Rainmen took the lead 65-64 before the 6-minute mark, but again fell short as the Express fought back and led 80-77 after three.
The lead changed hands three times in the final quarter as, despite a persistent foe, the Express continued to apply the pressure and walked away with the win.
Halifax dominated the inside game and outscored Windsor 42-32 with 14 of their total coming on the second chance. In fact, the Rainmen were rebounding machines as they cleared the glass in Windsor’s zone 25 times to the home team’s 24. The margin was even greater in the Halifax end as they pulled down 27 boards while Windsor grabbed just 8.
However, the heart of basketball is scoring and the Express did enough of that to win. The two teams were evenly matched from the field as well as from beyond the arc. Halifax shot 38-for-88 while Windsor replied with 30-for-66. The Rainmen enjoyed just a single 3-pointer more than the Express, 11 to 10.
The difference in the game was determined at the free throw line. Halifax was penalized for 55 shots and Windsor connected on 43 of them. Conversely, the Rainmen hit just 17-for-31 from the penalty stripe, giving up a 26-point deficit.
Leading the way for Windsor were Tony Bennett and Quinnel Brown who shot 89% and 83% from the line, respectively. They accounted, between them, for the entire 26 points Halifax trailed in the category. Bennett dropped a total 29 points for the Express while league MVP Brown contributed 22. However, the big scorer for Windsor was Chris Commons.
A Toledo native, Commons dropped a game-high 33 points on 12-for-20 from the floor and 71% on free throws.
Ryan Anderson also scored in the double digits with 11 points and Windsor’s own Gary Gibson chipped in 6 assists and 4 boards while putting up 7 points.
The game took a dark turn in the final quarter when Halifax’s 7’ 2”, 275 lb centre Liam McMorrow, out of Durham College, went over top of a Windsor player while jumping for a rebound. McMorrow landed awkwardly on the hardwood and needed to be taken off on a stretcher. He had taken a similar tumble in the opening few minutes of the game.
The teams will meet for game 2 on Friday in Windsor, at 7:00 pm, before heading to the east coast for three next week.