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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 29, 2020
For the third game in a row, Edmonton born and grown Jordan Baker pushed his hometown Stingers to victory in the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Summer Series in St. Catharines, Ont.
After being named the player of the game in each of Edmonton’s previous two wins, the six-foot-eight University of Alberta Golden Bears product and Harry Ainlay grad made it three-for-three Friday on the way to an 87-86 win over the Niagara River Lions at Meridian Centre.
The effort pushed the Stingers to 3-1 on the tournament to sit tied for first with the Guelph Nighthawks, with Edmonton’s lone loss coming in their opener against the Simon Fraser Bandits on Sunday.
With 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists Friday, Baker came up with the most meaningful basket, driving from the three-point arc and laying it in over a pair of River Lions defenders to hit the 87-point target in the Elam Ending, which Niagara headed into with a 78-77 lead.
And that meant Edmonton earned the first-ever Elam Ending comeback victory in league history.
“In a tight game, you have to make every possession count. Everybody had to stay composed,” said Stingers point guard Xavier Moon, who had a game-high 24 points to go with six assists, three rebounds and two steals.”We got stops down the stretch and made our free throws and some real tough buckets.
“We got lots of guys who can make plays and we rely on everybody and we lean on each other and that’s the biggest part of our team.”
Trae Bell-Haynes had 23 points, eight assists and two rebounds as Niagara falls, alright, to 1-3.
After taking a 25-17 lead into the second quarter, Edmonton saw it diminish into a two point advantage for Niagara, who turned up the heat from three-point territory to hit half time by pulling ahead 47-45. The Stingers made it even closer heading into the final frame trailing 67-66.
And the stats sheet looked every bit like a one-point game should, with both sides earning 21 assists and 39 rebounds, while Edmonton eked out a 14-13 edge in turnovers.
“They’re our biggest rival. There’s no question,” said Stingers head coach Jermaine Small. “We’re so evenly matched, every time we play them it’s like a Game 7. The intensity goes up a notch.”
The only thing Friday’s edition was lacking were fans in the stands to feed the buzz, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“The tighter the game, the tighter we’re together. A lot of times in the huddle, I’m not even talking — they’re talking with me,” said Small.
“I know if we lock in and get stops and believe in each other, we will win.”
Baker and Moon made good from the free-throw line to knot the score 83-83, before Bell-Haynes put the River Lions on the doorstep with a three pointer.
Edmonton responded with a bucket from Travis Daniels before a defensive stop — something that has become crucial in this Elam Ending experiment the league is undertaking in southern Ontario — led to Baker’s clincher.
“The thing about Jordan, I don’t ever really run any plays for him. He knows the open spots, and he’s making shots now,” said Small. “He’s doing it all for us right now.
“There’s no question in my mind he’s the MVP right now.”
With Moon drawing Niagara’s attention on the final possession, Baker got the ball at the top of the three-point line, driving past defender Guillaume Boucard making no mistake at the hoop.
“We knew they were going to deny Moon, and I told Jordan to take the hand off from Deeks (Adika Peter-McNeilly) and fake it and go to his left and he was wide open,” said Small, whose squad now sets its sights on a nationally televised rematch against a defending-champion Saskatchewan Rattlers group that knocked them from contention in last year’s playoffs (Saturday, 1:45 p.m., CBC). “We brought back the core for a reason. We don’t like how last season ended and we’re in a groove now.
“Guys are hungry and they all feel like we have unfinished business. We’re focused on getting stronger and stronger every game.”
Parity all around: On Thursday, the only winless team in the tournament beat the only previously undefeated squad, as the expansion Ottawa Blackjacks came up with their first win in franchise history, 78-76, over a 2-0 Fraser Valley crew on the strength of a 14-0 start.
On Twitter: @GerryModdejonge
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020