River Lions ride 23-0 run to quarter-final win over Nighthawks

·3 min read
The Niagara River Lions secured a spot in the Canadian Elite Basketball League semifinals by defeating the visiting Guelph Nighthawks 99-78 on Saturday at the Sleeman Centre. (cebl.ca - image credit)
The Niagara River Lions secured a spot in the Canadian Elite Basketball League semifinals by defeating the visiting Guelph Nighthawks 99-78 on Saturday at the Sleeman Centre. (cebl.ca - image credit)

The Niagara River Lions rode a strong second quarter performance that included a 23-0 run to grab a 99-78 victory over the visiting Guelph Nighthawks on Saturday and advance to the Canadian Elite Basketball League semifinals.

EJ Onu put on a dominant performance with 28 points, three blocks and six rebounds as Niagara set the CEBL record for the most points in a post-season quarter with 36 in the second frame.

The River Lions (13-7) would have been the home team in the quarter-final as the higher seed, but were unable to host the game at the Meridian Centre due to 2022 Canada Summer Games that kicked off in Niagara on Saturday.

Instead, the Nighthawks (10-10) played in their own barn, the Sleeman Centre.

Guelph rode the home crowd early, jumping out to a 22-17 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Star guard Ahmed Hill, who was instrumental in the Nighthawks' upset over the Fraser Valley Bandits in Thursday's play-in game with 27 points, potted nine points.

The River Lions then turned the game on its head in the second frame, going on a 23-0 run in the first five minutes of the quarter.

Niagara carried a 53-34 lead into the half, going 8-for-9 from three-point range and playing swarming defence on the Nighthawks.

Guelph's dynamic duo of Hill and guard Cat Barber, who combined for 52 points in Thursday's win, were held without a point in the second quarter and had 11 total at the half.

Onu takes over

The Nighthawks were able to battle back to within nine points near the end of the third quarter, but still couldn't deal with Onu.

The 23-year-old buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer extend Niagara's lead to 12, adding to his 25 points after three quarters of action to breeze past his regular season-high of 16.

Onu, who took part in the NBA Summer League with the Memphis Grizzlies in July, led the CEBL in blocks per game this season - also leading in the stat in Saturday's game.

Barber eventually found his groove for Guelph in the second half, finishing two points behind Hill, who had 17 points to lead Guelph.

Championship Weekend nearly set

The third place Scarborough Shooting Stars (12-8) will host the Saskatchewan Rattlers (11-9) in the second quarter-final matchup on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET.

The winning side will face the River Lions on Aug. 12 at 4 p.m. ET to kick off the CEBL Championship Weekend in Ottawa.

The game will be followed by first place Hamilton Honey Badgers (14-6) taking on host Ottawa BlackJacks (8-12) at 7 p.m. ET.

The final is set for at 4 p.m. ET on Aug. 14.

All games will be streamed live on CBCSports.ca, CBC Gem and the free CBC Sports app.

WATCH l CEBL quarter-finals: Guelph Nighthawks @ Niagara River Lions:

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