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Lightning look to strike early as London opens NBL Canada Finals against KW Titans

Chris Jones of the London Lightning dribbles the basketball.
Guard Chris Jones dribbles the ball for the Lightning during one of the team's six regular season games against the KW Titans, five of which London won. Courtesy London Lightning

While the forecast calls for only a risk of thunderstorms, the Lightning are guaranteed to strike when London opens the NBL Canada Finals against the KW Titans on Friday night.

The Lightning are coming off a dominant season and an even more impressive playoff run so far after sweeping the Windsor Express in the semi-finals, giving London an overall record of 23-4.

The Titans, whose overall record is 15-13, are making their first finals appearance after the heavy underdogs beat the odds to win their semifinals against the Sudbury Five 3-1.

Read more: London Lightning headed to National Basketball League of Canada finals

If their run so far isn’t enough to boost London’s confidence, the Lightning can also look to their past six outings with the Titans this season, five of which London won.

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Head coach Doug Plumb says that history can present a double-edged sword, which he intends to wield in London’s favour.

“I think maybe a lesser team or a team that is not composed with the type of people that we have on our team would take them lightly, but we have a group of guys that are ultra-competitive,” Plumb said.

“The most important thing is for people to have competitive stamina and to just love winning for the sake of winning.”

Plumb credits the Lightning’s performance so far, which includes their current eight-game win streak, to maintaining that competitive mentality season-round while building up to the peak performance his team plans to show in the finals.

Even on the Victoria Day long weekend, Plumb took no time off in preparing for the Titans.

“I watched 27 games in three days of KW…. We’re as prepared as we’re going to be,” Plumb said.

Read more: London Knights’ Brett Brochu named OHL goaltender of the year

A win on Friday would bring London one step closer to its fifth time winning the NBL Canada Finals in its quest to quench an unending championship thirst.

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While the thought of it all builds a rising storm in the Lightning, so too does the chance to finally play in a finals series, after two seasons were sidelined by the pandemic.

“When you’re a competitor and something is taken from you and that’s your outlet, that’s what you do and that’s who you are, it (can be) challenging for sure. We’re very excited to get back to it,” Plumb said.

The series has also been a long time coming for Plumb, who served as the team’s assistant head coach in 2016-17, a season that gave him a taste of NBL Canada glory when the Lightning were crowned champions under former head coach Kyle Julius.

“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was up this morning at 4:30 a.m. and I ran 10 miles at 6 a.m.,” Plumb said.

Games 1 and 2 will be played at Budweiser Gardens, while Game 3 will be played in Kitchener’s Memorial Auditorium.

If necessary, games 4 and 5 will be played at Memorial Auditorium and Bud Gardens, respectively.

Tipoff on Friday is at 7 p.m.

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