(WINDSOR, ON) – The St John’s Edge rolled into town with a 7-3 record and 1st place in the NBLC Central Division. It took a 4th quarter collapse by the Windsor Express, however, for St John’s to escape the building with a 103-99 win. Windsor is evidently a talented enough team to run to a 20-point lead over the league-leading Edge, but young enough to allow that lead to vanish.
“We battled in the third quarter. We were able to get in control of the game,” said Express head coach Bill Jones. “Then we just relaxed. [The Edge] was a team that was making shots all night.”
St John’s quickly ran up a 17-11 score over the Express by the halfway point of the 1st quarter. Shooting inaccuracy was the main hindrance faced by Windsor while the Edge couldn’t miss.
A time out by Coach Jones and some individual effort from Shaquille Keith helped to whittle down the visitor’s lead, by the end of 12 minutes, to just a bucket at 25-23. Point guard Maurice Jones led the Windsor offense in the opening act with 8 points and 3 assists. Recently activated Chad Fraser was close behind with 7 points.
The two teams began the 2nd quarter by trading baskets; first Windsor and then St John’s. Coach Jones again went with his early season strategy of having at least two ball handlers on the court at a time. Maurice Jones was joined on the floor alternatively by Michael Acheampong and Braylon Rayson. As the Express battled in the paint, St John’s chose the long ball to make their mark.
By halftime, however, the Edge continued to enjoy a 5-point lead on the strength of 32 points by Charles Hinkle,who hit 8-of-11 from outside. Hinkle finished the game with an outstanding 53 points. As a team, Windsor completed just 5-of-17 from outside the arc in the 1st half.
Five empty trips up court for St John’s to start the 2nd half, coupled with Windsor starting to connect from downtown, jettisoned the Express into a 72-61 lead with 5 minutes remaining in the 3rd period. Two more long balls by Rayson and Logan Stutz, the latter from almost half court, and a big block by Devin White, pushed Windsor into a 20-point lead.
The frustration by Edge players was palpable as two technical fouls were called against the visitors for things mentioned to the officiating crew. However, the Edge managed to shave 5 points off the Windsor lead as the clock mercifully ran out.
The first 3 minutes of the final quarter were relatively quiet as both teams suddenly lost their scoring touch. The loss of points was replaced by the addition of some pretty chippy play.
St John’s transitioned into playing in the paint while Windsor’s shooting all but dried up. Even when Fraser hit 2-of-3 from the penalty stripe, with 6:20 on the clock, the Express didn’t return to form. A minute later and Windsor was clinging to an 8-point lead, 94-86.
“Basketball is a game of runs. It’s just one of those things where, as we grow and get better, we’ll get better in late game situations,” said Keith. “You can’t be Superman every night.”
A cardiac inducing final 3 minutes saw St John’s catch and overtake Windsor 98-97. Two penalty shots from Keith turned the lead to Windsor’s favour, but with 35.8 seconds to play it was still anyone’s game to win.
A St John’s timeout was followed by a Hinkle trey and a 2-point Edge lead. Bill Jones then laid out the plan of action for his players with 25.2 seconds remaining. An attempt from outside by White was followed by a scramble under the net and a foul against St John’s. Keith in-bounded the ball to Jones whose shot under intense pressure fell short. And, that was the game.
“We talk about refusing to loose at home. We talk about being able to get the big rebound. We talk about getting the big stop,” Bill Jones said. “We weren’t able to get it today.”
The Kitchener-Waterloo Titans did manage to “get it” on Wednesday when they handed St John’s a 99-92 loss. The Express will have a chance to get one back in the win column when they host the Titans today at 2pm.