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Written by: Zach Dadson
The Niagara River Lions came up short in the final game of the 2016/17 NBL Canada season, losing 104-103 to the Orangeville A’s. With the loss, the River Lions are officially eliminated from the playoffs, while the A’s secure the final post season spot.
“At the end of the day, we competed.” Niagara River Lions Head Coach Keith Vassell said after the game.
“We did everything that we could and that’s all you can really ask for. We controlled what we needed to control and the ball didn’t fall our way at the end of the day.” Vassell continued.
Despite trailing by 8 points midway through the first quarter the River Lions led 33-27 after the game’s first 12 minutes.
Niagara held a 57-50 lead at halftime and expanded their lead to 11 points, outscoring the Orangeville A’s 82-71 through three quarters.
The A’s immediately began to chip away at the lead to start the fourth quarter and went on a run that brought them right back into contention.
“We got away from catching our man in transition and I think we lost Tipping a few times, giving him a few threes.” Josiah Moore explained.
“That’s been our problem all year, but it’s something to build on. I’m looking forward to next year.” Moore added.
Josiah Moore scored 14 points and collected 7 rebounds in the final game of his rookie season. The Oakville, ON native averaged 4.35 points per game and 2.89 rebounds in his first season of professional basketball but finished the season strong averaging 12.25 points and 5.5 rebounds in the team’s final four games of the year.
“I learned a lot, it was an up and down year.” Moore said about his first season as a pro.
“I had to learn to come in and be ready at all times. Come in and rebound, come in and hit the shots and just be ready t make the open pass for my teammates.” He added.
Sam Muldrow also finished the season playing his best basketball and the second-year River Lion looks well on his way to being a star in the National Basketball League of Canada.
Muldrow finishes the season leading the league in blocks (3.08 per game) and averaged 21 points and 12.5 rebounds in the final four games of the year.
“We can be a pretty good team, as you’ve seen the last couple of games we’ve played.” Muldrow said after Saturday night’s game.
Richard Amardi led the River Lions in scoring, finishing the game with 22 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals while Nick Okorie added 14 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.
Carl Hall fouled out late in the fourth quarter but managed to put up 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 32 minutes of play.
“I never know what to say at the end of a season.” Said Coach Vassell as fans filed out of the Lions’ Den for the last time this year.
“I think that it’s unfortunate that there was so much weight on this game. We were up 11 against Windsor, we were up 11 against Kitchener twice, we were up against a plethora of teams and then we just didn’t close off the game.”
Needing to win their final four games of the season for a chance at making the playoffs, the River Lions started their final home stand 3-0 but weren’t able to complete the four-game sweep, ultimately finishing the season 14-26 and missing the playoffs.
“At the end of the day, we competed. We did everything that could and that’s all you can ask for.” Said Coach Vassell. “We controlled what we need to control and the ball didn’t fall our way.”
The Niagara River Lions will now enter the offseason and begin to prepare for their third season in the NBL of Canada which begins in December 2018.