Double overtime in London was doubly tough for the St. John’s Edge Tuesday night.
In what was quickly dubbed a playoff classic, the defending champion London Lightning defeated the visiting Edge 140-133 in the opening game of their National Basketball League of Canada divisional final, a contest that required a couple of extra five-minute frames before a final result.
The Edge had been here before, losing in overtime to the Lightning in a mid-January game in London. But unlike that one, which saw St. John’s fritter away a 17-point lead in the last four minutes of regulation, it was the Edge showing the resolve necessary for a comeback this time around.
They overcame a nine-point deficit with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter to force overtime, and actually had held a lead in the last minute.
The first overtime period didn’t produce a winner, although St. John’s came very close to making the claim, with Charles Hinkle hitting a jump shot with eight seconds left to put the Edge up 120-117, only to see the Lightning’s Kyle Johnson hit a three-pointer four seconds later.
Hinkle would try a desperation long shot, but it didn’t go and Carl English couldn’t convert a rebound into a buzzer beater.
That meant a second OT session was needed.
It proved to be another scratch-and-claw session and the teams were tied at 131-131 with just over a half-minute left. But the Lightning prevailed the rest of the way, helped by a couple of rebounds and six successful foul shots, including two by Garrett Williamson after the Edge’s Coron Williams was tagged for a technical (flagrant) foul, one that allowed the Lightning to retain possession after Williamson made his shots.
It was all part of a feisty, physical, intense affair, with 64 fouls and the league’s top two scorers — Royce White of London and English of the Edge — both fouling out in the last minute of the contest.
White led all scorers with 35 points and added 10 rebounds, while Williamson had 29 points and 11 boards for the winners.
Ryan Reid topped St. John’s with 27 points, while English had 22 despite a slow start.
The league MVP literally didn’t look like himself at the start of the game, as he wore a faceguard to provide protection to a nose that was injured by an accidental elbow in practice earlier this week.
English, who finished second to White (who regularly wears a mask) in scoring during the regular season, had missed a number of games this year after suffering a nose fracture in January. However, his use of the mask only lasted half a quarter Tuesday night. About six minutes into the game, and after missing his first three shots, he removed the protection.
The 48 minutes of regulation saw English collecting just 11 points, but he was more like his old self in the 10 minutes of OT, getting just as many points there.
Hinkle, who played all but three minutes Tuesday, added 21 points and 14 rebounds — all at the defensive end — for St. John’s, while Xavier Ford and Williams had 19 and 17 points, respectively, off the bench.
The 2,453 who took in the contest can only hope for more of the same excitement in Game Thursday night in London.
Games 3, 4, and 5 — the latter if necessary — are at Mile One Centre in St. John’s on Saturday, Monday and next Thursday, respectively. Games 6 and 7 — if the series gets that far — would be in London.