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Written by: Zach Dadson
The Niagara River Lions kept their hopes of making the playoffs alive with a dominating 121-106 win over the Orangeville A’s at the Meridian Centre on Sunday April 23.
The River Lions must win all of their remaining games and have the A’s lose all of their final matchups in order to make the playoffs. Sunday’s win over the A’s was an important step for the team.
“Everybody in our locker room right now understands that it’s a ‘backs against the wall’ situation.” Richard Amardi said after the game.
“Because we know it’s a ‘backs against the wall’ situation, I think we all came here with the same focus in mind” he added.
The River Lions started the game strong jumping out to a 4-0 lead and after trading leads throughout the majority of the first quarter the home team held on to a 32-28 advantage after 12 minutes.
“We had to come out with a sense of urgency and actually play like our backs are against the wall instead of coming out and being slow like we normally have in the last couple of games” Nick Okorie said after the game.
Okorie finished the matinee matchup with 19 points and 5 assists.
The River Lions outscored the A’s 35-26 in the third quarter and went into halftime with a 67-54 lead.
Although the River Lions have typically struggled in third quarters this season, Niagara outscored Orangeville 33-27 in the frame and led by as many as 22 points in the third.
Orangeville started the fourth quarter on a 13-2 run and looked to be mounting a comeback as they only trailed by 9 points when River Lions Head Coach Keith Vassell called a timely timeout.
When asked about what his message was to his team during the early fourth quarter time out, Coach Vassell was clear.
“Stop them from scoring. We’ve got to do something to stop the bleeding. They’re a good team so they’re going to go on their runs. We were able to keep them out of rhythm for most of the game so I knew that it was going to happen at some point.”
Coach Vassell and his assistants were able to get the job done as the River Lions withstood the A’s comeback attempt and the home team went on to a convincing 15-point win.
“Coach just brought us back to focus.” Amardi explained when asked about the fourth quarter A’s comeback attempt.
“We took that time out to bring back the focus and let us remember that this is a game that we can’t just let go so I think that time out was just to reassure that we’ve got to get back to what it is that we’ve been doing.” Amardi continued.
Player of the Game Sam Muldrow had his second 20+ point game in a row as the big man finished the game with 23 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Carl Hall finished the game with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists while Joe Rocca had a professional career high 11 points 3 rebounds and 2 assists.
The River Lions will take on the Atlantic Division leading Halifax Hurricanes on Wednesday April 26and there’s no room for error. If the River Lions lose that game they will be officially eliminated from the playoffs.
The Niagara River Lions have never won three games in a row in their franchise’s two seasons of existence but Richard Amardi and his teammates feel positive about the opportunity for redemption against the Hurricanes and keeping their playoff hopes alive.
“We’ve got to continue to execute and believe in one another, trust the team, trust what Coach Vassell’s doing with us and we’re just going to get the job done on Wednesday.” Amardi reported after the game.