The St. John’s Edge, coming off a pair of losses to open their latest road trip, dug down deep and came away with three wins over the weekend to improve to 14-7 and keep pace with the leader in the race for top spot in the National Basketball League of Canada.
The Edge put on a scoring clinic in the second half Sunday at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, Ont., en route to a 122-104 win over the homestanding Niagara River Lions. Tied 55-55 at halftime, the Edge outscored the River Lions 67-49 in the second half to pull away.
St. John’s is nipping at the heels of the London Lightning for top spot in the Central Division, and first overall in the league. The defending champion Lightning are 14-6 with a game in hand.
Sunday’s win was the second in three days over Niagara, following a 99-97 decision Friday night.
In between was a 111-89 win over the Windsor Express Saturday night as the Edge capped a sweep of a grueling three games in three days series.
“We learned from our losses last week (94-86 to open the trip in Kitchener against the KW Titans, and 121-115 in OT against London), we channeled our energy and our execution was sharp,” said coach Jeff Dunlap Sunday night.
“What’s even more impressive is we did it with new players (Russell Byrd and Coron Williams) who had not one minute of practice time with us. So, all things considered, yes, they were impressive wins in a tough three-in-three situation.”
Charles Hinkle led the Edge Sunday 26 points, and Williams continued his strong play with 22 points.
Saturday night, Williams drained 29 points in the victory over the Express in Windsor, Ont.
Williams, a 6-1 point guard, arrived last Monday from the NBA G League’s Greensboro Swarm. Williams played five years of NCAA ball with Robert Morris University and Wake Forest, where he averaged nine points per game.
Byrd chipped in with 15 points for the Edge, which was without the services of top rebounder Grandy Glaze, who did not dress after going down favouring his knee late in the fourth quarter Saturday night.
In Windsor Saturday, Hinkle backed up Williams with a 24-point effort. Desmond Lee continued his strong play of late with 14 points and Glaze pulled down eight boards for St. John’s, which led 45-39 at halftime.
It was all Hinkle Friday as the Edge snapped its modest two-game losing streak, as the 6-5 small forward from California drained 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Hinkle, who played his college basketball at Vanderbilt and Washington’s American University, is a veteran of the European pro circuit, having played in Turkey and Hungary, in addition to Israel and Japan. He also toiled in the NBA D League (now called the G League).
Lee had 13 points and six rebounds.
The Edge finished the trip 3-2, without the services of its top scorer, Carl English.
“The guys are dead tired,” Dunlap said. “I could see it in their faces this morning and in their legs today, but they somehow mustered up enough energy to win.
“I’m proud of them for that. We’ll shut it down for a couple of days, maybe have a shoot-around Wednesday and we’ll be ready to start up our engines again Thursday.”
The team returns to St. John’s today, and will have 11 days to prepare for a two-game series with the Moncton Magic Feb. 2-3 at Mile One Centre. The Edge plays Windsor Feb. 6-7 at home before hitting the road again for four games in southern Ontario.