CANADIAN ELITE BASKETBALL LEAGUE
Fans were welcomed into the Expo Centre for the first time since 2019, and Xavier Moon gave the crowd quite the show scoring a CEBL record 38 points as the Edmonton Stingers (2-0) topped the Niagara River Lions (1-2), 82-75.
Moon proved to be the x-factor early on, scoring 18 of Edmonton’s first 20 points. The two-time CEBL Player of the Year was borderline automatic in the first quarter, making mid-range jump shots, deep three-pointers, and finishing in transition.
“I’ve never coached a player that’s done that,” said head coach Jermaine Small. “He really set the tone for the game. It doesn’t surprise me at the same time because he’s that good and I’ve seen him make those shots effortlessly. It’s truly special to have a player like that and I’m really glad he’s on our team.”
Although Moon is one of Edmonton’s floor generals, he did not have the ball the entire time, and some efficient passing by his teammates resulted in open looks for the CEBL First Team All-Star. With six returning players from last year’s championship winning roster, Edmonton showed its chemistry early on with pristine ball movement, executing short, quick passes in the key and swinging the ball around the perimeter.
When Moon was substituted out of the game, Mathieu Kamba took over for the Stingers scoring some tough baskets to maintain their lead. A force in the front court for Edmonton was Canadian Jordan Baker who crashed the boards and finished with nine points and 11 rebounds. Edmonton was able to withstand pressure from the River Lions, exhibiting the poise that helped them capture a CEBL championship last season.
“Basketball is a game of runs, sustain a run, and make a run of your own,” said Moon. “Like coach said in the locker room, ‘Bend but don’t break,’ I think we do a great job of having each other’s back through all the adversity and it showed tonight.”
Niagara lost this game by seven points and although the River Lions fought hard, one area that could have easily closed this gap was at the free throw line as the team went six for 19, shooting only 31 per cent.
For the second straight game, Xavier Sneed led the way for Niagara with 19 points and nine rebounds. Despite several large runs by the reigning CEBL champions, the River Lions were able to keep chipping away at the deficit. Before the end of the half, Niagara cut the once 19-point lead down to seven points by forcing Edmonton into some deep contested shots.
“The big thing for us is the defensive end. If we can keep improving there I think we’re going to be really good,” said head coach Victor Raso. “It fits our athleticism really well. When we execute defensively like we want to, we get out and go.”
The comeback was fueled both by Niagara’s defence and through some solid play in the paint. The River Lions outscored the Stingers 40-30 down low thanks to a strong performance by Javin DeLaurier. The former Duke Blue Devil tallied 16 points, nine rebounds and provided a boost for the River Lions on both the offensive and defensive ends.
“My teammates were just giving me the ball and I was just trying to be aggressive and finish,” said DeLaurier. “We knew we were coming in here playing a really good team, last year’s champions, and especially after coming off a loss we just wanted to come in here and not play scared and go right at them.”
Some timely baskets by Sneed and Lloyd Pandi also allowed the team to build momentum. Pandi provided great energy for Niagara helping to mount a comeback with two consecutive baskets, first backing down Moon for a bucket and then on the next possession making a tough layup and free-throw for a three-point play.
The Niagara River Lions will continue their road trip on Sunday when they travel to the SaskTel Centre to take on the Saskatchewan Rattlers (0-3) at 3:00 p.m. ET/ 2:00 p.m. local time.
Edmonton will look to remain undefeated as the Stingers welcome the Ottawa BlackJacks (1-2) to the Expo Centre on Monday at 9:30 p.m. ET/ 7:30 p.m. local time. Tickets are on sale now at ticketmaster.ca.
All CEBL games will be available for live streaming on the CEBL’s new OTT streaming service, CEBL+, cbcsports.ca, the free CBC Gem streaming service, the CBC Sports App for iOS and android devices, and on Twitch.
A league created by Canadians for Canadians, the CEBL has the highest percentage of Canadian players of any professional league in the country, with 75 percent of its current rosters being Canadians. Players bring experience from the NBA, NBA G League, top international leagues, the Canadian National team program, and top NCAA programs as well as U Sports. The only First Division Professional League Partner of Canada Basketball, the CEBL season typically runs from May through August. Head to CEBL.ca for more information or follow us on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube.*************************