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Written by: Zach Dadson
The Niagara River Lions picked up an important divisional win on the road as they beat the KW Titans 91-87 in Kitchener, ON on Saturday April 1.
The game was a rematch of the River Lions’ 120-103 loss to the Titans on Tuesday March 28 when the Titans set the league record for made three-pointers with 25.
“I think we improved as a team.” River Lions Head Coach Keith Vassell said after the game.
“Defensively we established ourselves and we made sure that we didn’t give them easy looks.” Vassell continued.
The River Lions held Kitchener-Waterloo to just 3 points in the game’s first six minutes forcing the Titans to go just 1-10 from the field.
Niagara finished the first quarter leading KW 18-16 as the Titans shot just 20% from the field in the game’s first 12 minutes.
The River Lions built on their lead in the second quarter as they outscored Kitchener-Waterloo 28-22 in the frame. Niagara went into halftime leading the Titans 46-38.
Kitchener-Waterloo shot just 30% in the first half whereas the River Lions had a strong offensive half shooting 46% from the field and 37.5% from three-point range.
“I think we established our defense early and that’s really what made the difference in the game.” Sammy Zeglinski said after the win.
Zelginski finished the night with 16 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds and 3 steals.
“We let our defense fuel our offense instead of the other way around.” He added.
Despite the Titans starting the second half on a 7-0 run the River Lions outscored Kitchener-Waterloo 25-22 in the third quarter expanding their lead to 11 points going into the fourth.
“This Tuesday they jumped out on us.” Kirk Williams Jr explained after the game.
“Today we dictated the pace where it was a little slower for them and we tried to limit their three-pointers because we know they like to shoot threes.” He continued.
Williams Jr led the River Lions in scoring on Saturday night finishing the game with 19 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists.
The Titans managed to tie the game 77-77 with 5 minutes to go and had trailed by just 2 points with 24.5 seconds left but were unsuccessful in their final shot attempt. Richard Amardi came up with his second important offensive rebound of the quarter and forced the Titans to foul him. Amardi went to the line for two free throws, making both and put an end to KW’s comeback.
Carl Hall, who made an important bucket in the last second of the shot clock in the game’s final minute, finished the game with 12 points and 5 rebounds while Richard Amardi had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
“As we had practice this week you could see that guys were really focused.” Coach Vassell said about his team.
“We have a strong desire to compete and to win so that’s what you saw out there on the floor.” Vassell continued.
The importance of the win wasn’t lost on the River Lions on Saturday night.
“Today we knew it was a die or win type of situation.” Kirk Williams Jr reported after the game.
“We were all so hungry to get a win.” Sammy Zeglinski added.
“It’s been so long. Every game right now is a playoff game for us. We’ve got to go on a bit of a run so we know how important it was and we all came together and got it done.”
That run will continue on Sunday April 2 as the River Lions host the Saint John Riptide in a 2pm matinee matchup in the Lions’ Den.