London Lightning win 2017 NBL of Canada championship
The London Lightning capped off a record-setting season of basketball, taking the NBL Canada championship on Monday night.
London defeated the Halifax Hurricanes 129-116 at Budweiser Gardens to become the first team to win a league title with a Canadian head coach.
The series that had seen the teams alternate wins and losses from the first tip saw the Lightning break the pattern with a big game from Royce White, who led all scorers with 34 points and 15 rebounds. White also had nine assists, falling just one shy of a triple-double.
London set a tone from their first possession. White was denied twice underneath the basket, but snagged the rebound on both attempts and then fed Kyle Johnson who was wide open above the key and he drained a three-pointer to open the scoring.
White fought through traffic under the basket and put some authority into a 12-6 early run with a soaring, one-handed dunk. Not long after that, he fired home a three, picking up nine of the first 17 London points.
“It was hard,” White admitted as he watched his teammates celebrate after the game. “They made a couple of runs at us. There was this natural tension because we were so close to a lengthy goal that we set out at the start of the season, but we accomplished it and that always means something special.”
Halifax used some good looks and a couple of inside feeds to close the gap to five.
A no-look pass from White to Junior Cadougan and a three-pointer from the left side gave London some breathing room again and they ended the first quarter ahead 36-25.
London stretched that lead as far as 17 points in the second quarter, before an 8-0 run by the Hurricanes tightened the gap and forced a timeout from Lightning head coach Kyle Julius.
London emerged with tighter attention to defense and began to force turnovers and nab rebounds and built their 17-point lead right back and then some with halftime in sight.
The Lightning carried a 69-51 advantage in the second half after shooting 62.5 per cent from three-point range over the first two quarters. Five of those threes came from Ryan Anderson, who was five-for-eight from outside the arc.
White continued his dominance, slicing through the Halifax defence for six of London’s first 13 points of the second half and fighting for rebounds, securing a double-double to close out his MVP season.
Where White is headed next is anyone’s guess, including his.
As the third quarter wore on, a celebration began to feel like a foregone conclusion, but a late foul on White and a subsequent technical foul called against White, after he and Halifax forward, Aaron Bowen came together, closed the gap to 12 as the fourth quarter began.
It took just over two minutes for the Hurricanes to whittle that down to seven, but the Lightning responded with big points from Anderson and Cadougan and found themselves back up by 13.
Again, Halifax cut the lead to single digits, getting back to within seven, but that seemed to be the threshold the Hurricanes could not cross.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Anderson and Kyle Johnson gave London the final bit of breathing room they needed as they closed things out.
Antoine Mason led the Hurricanes with 33 points.
Ryan Anderson was named playoff MVP.
Lightning head coach, Kyle Julius soaked in the scene at the end of the game as yellow and black ticker tape rained down.
“I’m really grateful for the way the guys worked this year and responded,” Julius said. “When you win 15 games in a row and you are still working and still grinding and guys are making sacrifices. I have such tremendous gratitude.”
The Lightning have now won three of the six NBL Canada titles since the formation of the league in 2011.
They were back-to-back champions in the first two years of the NBL Canada’s existence and have now won more titles than any other franchise.
Windsor is second with two. Halifax has one.
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