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St. John's Edge expecting fine crowd for 2019 home debut

St. John's Edge guard Desmond Lee (right) leads the entire National Basketball League of Canada in three-point accuracy. — St. John's Edge/Jeff Parsons
St. John's Edge guard Desmond Lee (5) leads the entire National Basketball League of Canada in three-point accuracy. — St. John's Edge/Jeff Parsons

They play their first game at Mile One Centre in more than a month when they take on London Lightning Saturday night

The curtain goes up on the St. John’s Edge Saturday night.

Literally.

This weekend, local fans will get their first look at the National Basketball League of Canada’s Edge in exactly a month as St. John’s hosts the two-time defending London Lightning at Mile One Centre.

The Edge’s last home game was Dec. 19 and if you think that might have produced some pent-up yearning, it appears you’re right. Ticket demand for Saturday’s game has been such that the Edge will be lifting the curtains in the upper sections of Mile One; they’re normally closed off for St. John’s home contests.

The two teams — who met in a divisional final last season — square off again 3 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

The Lightning haven’t looked exactly like there championship selves this year. They carry an 8-11 record and a three-game losing streak into a matchup tonight against the Kitchener-Waterloo Titans and they have already undergone a coaching change.

But they’ve always played the Edge tough. What’s more, they’ll have the benefit of some recent action, while St. John’s will be scraping off whatever barnacles became attached over the last dozen days. The Edge haven’t played since Jan. 6 when they concluded a post-Christmas road trip through the Maritimes that saw them go 5-1 despite a hectic schedule, covering the six games in nine days, with plenty of travel in between.

 It was a performance that improved the Edge’s overall record to 11-6, good enough to keep them in first place despite the fact they haven’t see any league action — home or away — in more than a week and a half.

Since then, the team has made several roster moves, trading Guillaume Boucard to the Island Storm for Brad States in a swap of Canadian forwards, releasing American forward/centre Keith Wright and Canadian guard Kevin Zabo and activating star guard Carl English from injured reserve. English, who has been troubled by ankle and calf problems that have limited him to seven games, last played Dec. 16.

The moves left St. John’s one player short of the maximum of 12 for an active roster.

The trade of Boucard and release of Wright and Zabo means five players who were with the Edge at the start of the 2018-19 season are no longer with the team (Maverick Morgan and Todd Brown are the others), but guards Maurice Jones and Desmond Lee, in particular, have been consistent from Game 1;  former NBA star Glen Davis and ex Arizona State centre Obinna Oleka have given St. John’s a formidable pair in the post since coming on board in-season; Canadian guard Junior Cadougan was stellar during the recent road trip, averaging more than 16 points and five assists in the half-dozen games; and another Canadian backcourt player, Diego Kapelan, has shown a willingness to toss up three-pointers while providing an average of 10.4 points per game, mostly off the bench.

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Staying with three-pointers, Lee leads the entire league in three-point accuracy, with a 47.6 per cent accuracy rate

And Lee is at the top, or near the top, of most statistical categories for St. John’s.

He is the only player to have started all 17 games for the Edge, is first in minutes played with 35.5 per game (Jones is just behind at 35.4); and was only surpassed by Wright (58.8) in shooting percentage by players with 50 or more attempts from the field — Lee has hit at 51.1 percent.

Lee also joins Jones (78-for-88, third-best accuracy in the league) as big contributors at the free-throw line.

Perhaps most surprisingly considering he’s a guard, Lee (121) has been surpassed only by Wright (126) when it comes to total rebounds, although Oleka is on pace to soon overtake everyone on the team.

Oleka has 112 rebounds in 10 games for 11.2 per game average. That would be second-best in the entire league to former Edge player Grandy Glaze (11.6), now of Sudbury, but Oleka still needs more games to become an official qualifier.

Finally, Jones leads the team in both assists (116 overall, third best in the league) and steals (32 overall, second-best in the NBLC).

Twitter: @telybrendan

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