Back-to-back NBL champs London Lightning host end-of-year open house

London Lightning shooting guard Kyle Johnson stands with the NBL Championship trophy. Liny Lamberink / 980 CFPL

The London Lightning celebrated their 4th National Basketball League of Canada championship with fans on Tuesday, holding an end-of-season open house.

The open house ran from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at their gym at 75 Blackfriars St., with fans having the opportunity to take photos with players and the trophy, get autographs, and purchase end-of-season merchandise.

“It feels great to bring this championship back to London again,” said shooting guard Kyle Johnson.

In what was a very entertaining series, the Lightning defeated the Halifax Hurricanes 109-101 in Friday’s Game 7, overcoming the odds that were stacked against them.

“Last year was my first year here, and after winning, I wanted more. I came back, and continued that success,” he said.

For head coach Keith Vassell, it was his first championship after leaving Niagara College and becoming the interim coach for the Niagara River Lions in the second half of the 2017 season.

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READ MORE: London Lightning are NBL Canada champions again

“From the beginning of the season until now, it has been an incredible journey,” Vassell said.

“Apart from winning, our biggest achievement this year was how we adapted to change, especially in the playoffs.”

In defeating the Hurricanes, the Lightning were without their star power forward, Royce White, due to suspension.

“For many teams, that would be incredibly difficult to deal with, but not for us,” Vassell said.

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“I’m proud of these guys, and proud we could bring a championship back to this city for the fans here today,” he said.

For 10-year-old Sophie and nine-year-old Casey, they were super excited after their Lightning won.

“The trophy looks really cool up close, and meeting the players has been really fun,” Sophie said.

10-year-old Sophie and nine-year-old Casey were both very excited their Dad brought them to the London Lightning open house. Liny Lamberink / 980 CFPL

“The trophy is really pretty, especially with the gold basketball on top. Also, I thought it would be really small, but it’s huge!” she said.

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“When I got home on the bus, my dad asked me and my sister if we wanted to go meet the London Lightning, and we both said, ‘Of course!” Casey said.

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