Hamilton Honey Badgers win CEBL season opener


Published May 25, 2022 at 9:10 pm

Hamilton Honey Badgers guard Christian Vital (right) dribbles upcourt. (Hamilton Honey Badgers)

Finding the hot hand was Vital for the Hamilton Honey Badgers in a winning season debut.

On opening night of the Canadian Elite Basketball League season, the Honey Badgers frayed in the fourth quarter against the expansion Montréal Alliance, as a 15-point lead melted down to one with 5:37 to play. However, newcomer Christian Vital illustrated why he set an American Athletic Conference career record for three-pointers in his Connecticut Huskies days, sinking four triples in crunch time to spur Hamilton to an 80-72 victory at FirstOntario Centre on Wednesday.

“The way we finish is the biggest takeaway from this one,” Vital, who scored 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting on threes, told CBC Sports. “There were ups and downs, there’s a lot to get used to, but there was no bickering and we pulled together.”

Vital (pronounced Vee-tal) hit two triples on either side of the Elam ending stage. Under CEBL rules, the scoreclock is shut off after the first stoppage in play with fewer than four minutes left in the fourth quarter, in order to stop intentional fouling. The teams play to reach a target score that is nine points more than the tally of the team which is ahead.

The Alliance had a decent look at taking the lead into Elam time Montréal had a 16-4 run going when Alain Louis missed a potential go-ahead shot. On the ensuing Hamilton possession, Vital hit a corner three that righted Hamilton somewhat. The six-foot-two guard also also tripled from the left corner for a 71-66 lead just before the four-minute mark.

The Honey Badgers had 20 turnovers. But they shot an effective 67.0 per cent, thanks largey to 11 three-pointers. Versatile veteran Caleb Agada, the guard from Burlington who played for Nigeria in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, had a game-most 17 points and eight rebounds.

Forward Jeremiah Tilmon Jr. gave Hamilton an inside prescence with 15 points. Toronto-raised shooting guard Koby McEwen, a rookie from Weber State, hooped 12, including two deep three-pointers during a big run in the third quarter.

Isiah Osborne, a former Ontario University Athletics standout at Windsor and Carleton, paced Montréal with 16 points.

The Honey Badgers are starting with three home games. They also host the Fraser Valley Bandits on Friday and welcome in the Guelph Nighthawks on June 2.

Their QEW rival, the Niagara River Lions, start with three away games, including their opener later tonight against the two-time league champion Edmonton Stingers. The River Lions’ home opener in St. Catharines is against Montreal on June 3 at the Meridian Centre.

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