(London, ON) Although the NBL Canada playoffs were still months away, Sunday afternoon’s contest between the Sudbury Five and their division rivals the London Lighting had all the characteristics of a heated playoff affair.
Both the Lightning and the Five entered Sunday’s game on mini two game winning streaks. The Five were returning to Ontario after two big wins in Saint John and Cape Breton. Meanwhile, the Lightning were fresh off of a win against the Riptide Saturday night and an overtime thriller against the Edge a week earlier. Both the Five and the Lightning entered the game tied in the Central, with the winner taking sole possession of third place.
The Five got off to a hot start. Led by Isaiah “Big Dog” Johnson, the Five opened the game on a 10-2 run. Some key Five misses, and some great defense by the Lightning allowed London to get back into the game late in the quarter. Braylon Rayson scored eight and Johnson added in five of his own, but the Lightning came out with the narrow lead, 27-26.
The playoff like atmosphere continued in the second quarter. The Lightning and the Five were neck-and-neck all quarter, with neither team able to pull away by more than two baskets. Guard Jaylen Bland was red hot in the quarter, shooting 75% from the field and finishing the second with eight points and six rebounds. Cory Dixon also scored eight points including an electric dunk to get the entire Five bench on their feet to end the second. The Dixon dunk wasn’t enough as the Lightning extended their lead to three, 57-54.
Held scoreless in the second quarter, the NBL Canada’s league leading scorer Braylon Rayson caught fire in the third. Rayson scored 11 points, leading all players in scoring. The Five scored thirty points in the third by committee, with seven of the team’s ten dressed players scoring at least two points. After three quarters the London lead was gone, and both teams were tied at 84.
With 12 minutes remaining and third place in the Central Division on the line, the pace of the game started to heat up. Kansas University grad Travis Releford caught fire in the final quarter, scoring 16 of his game high 26 points in the fourth. Cory Dixon scored two free throws with just under thirty seconds to play to seal the win for the Five, 115-110.
The Five now home after the team’s longest road trip of the season, finishing the trip with three wins and one loss. The Five will travel to Kitchener for a pair of road games against the Titans on Thursday and Saturday. Fans can watch all the action live on www.nblclive.cafor free until February 1st, 2019.