The St. John’s Edge used contributions from their reserves — and not just players — as they downed the London Lightning 112-104 Thursday night to tie their best-of-seven National Basketball League of Canada playoff series at 1-1.
The Central Division final now switches locations to Mile One Centre in St. John’s for the next three games Saturday, Monday and next Thursday.
Thursday’s result, played out before 3,268, not only means the Edge have grabbed home-court advantage in the series, it also provided a rewrite to what has been a short history of frustration — it was St. John’s first-ever win in London.
The Edge has lost all three regular-season games as visitors to the Budweiser Gardens, and dropped a tough 140-133 double overtime decision in the series-opener Tuesday.
The rematch saw St. John’s head coach Jeff Dunlap, normally among the calmest souls on the Edge sideline, get ejected after an outburst midway through the third quarter. Dunlap was assessed two technicals after angrily coming onto the court to confront officials over a non-call when he felt Wally Ellenson had been fouled on a three-point attempt.
Assistant coach Doug Plumb — who had held the same position with the Lightning when they won the league championship last season — took over at that point, with St. John’s leading 70-62.
London then proceeded to chip away at the margin and even took over the lead about five minutes later, but St. John’s responded with a three-pointer from Charles Hinkle, followed by a steal by Ransford Brempong that led to a layup from Carl English.
All of a sudden St. John’s had regained the lead and would not relinquish it for the remainder of the contest, even though the Lightning got to within one around three minutes into fourth quarter.
Game 2 saw six different Edge players score in double figures and five grab at least a half-dozen rebounds. Starters Desmond Lee (17 points, seven rebounds), English (15 points, eight rebounds, five assists), Ryan Reid (15 points, eight rebounds) and Hinkle (12 points, six rebounds), slotted into those categories, but the St. John’s bench also delivered, starting with Ellenson, who scored a team-leading 20 points and added six rebounds,
Prior to Thursday’s game, Dunlap suggested his bench players would be key if St. John’s was to even the series, given that the St. John’s starters had played heavy minutes in Tuesday’s marathon — Hinkle, for example, had been on the floor for all but three of the 58 minutes in that extra-long contest.
The Edge bench did come through, putting in 84 minutes of floor time (26 by point guard Coron Williams) and registering 45 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Lightning, meanwhile, received 15 points, 11 rebounds and one assist in 67 minutes of floor time from their bench.
That meant London was reliant on its starters ,including Royce White (29 points, nine rebounds), Garrett Williamson (22 points, eight rebounds) and Mo Bolden (20 points, 10 rebounds). But even though they all had as many or more points and rebounds than any Edge player, it was not enough on this night.