Niagara River Lions earn first-round bye in CEBL playoffs after beating Hamilton Honey Badgers


Published August 6, 2021 at 1:18 am


With two Scrubbs and a Sharpie, the Niagara River Lions signed their ticket to the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s championship weekend.

At FirstOntario Centre, the River Lions completed a home-and-home sweep with a tense 84-81 win against the host Hamilton Honey Badgers to clinch second place in the CEBL regular season. Tommy Scrubb tallied a game-most 24 points and Phil Scrubb added 16 for Niagara (9-4), which still has one regular-season game left. Ajax native Jaylen Babb-Harrison scored 17 points, including two timely triples during the fourth quarter and the game-clinching basket during the Elam Ending via an offensive putback.

“It’s all about resilience,” Babb-Harrison told CEBL+. “We found a way to get it done.”

The first-place Edmonton Stingers (12-1) and the River Lions will be in the league’s semifinals in Edmonton on Aug. 20, awaiting the quarterfinal winners. A Niagara-Hamilton rematch is a strong possibility, since the Honey Badgers (9-5) are now locked into third place. They will host a quarterfinal game against the sixth-place finisher.

The River Lions have won four consecutive games since the Scrubb brothers arrived to play under coach Victor Raso, their former floormate with the Carleton Ravens university basketball juggernaut. They held a 74-68 lead over Hamilton when the game entered the Elam Ending, where the scoreclock is turned off and a target score is established.

Hamilton guard Lindell Wigginton, a league MVP candidate, came alive and helped Hamilton go on a 11-4 run to take a 79-78 lead. Two free throws from Babb-Harrison and a contested baseline jumper from Tommy Scrubb reestablished Niagara’s cushion with a baseline jumper.

Wigginton scored 17 points, but was limited five-of-16 shooting. Hamilton native Jean-Victor Mukama added 13 points.

The Honey Badgers trailed by as much as 14 points in the second half with their star, Wigginton, struggling to get off offensively. They got within one, at 66-65, with six minutes left.

However, Niagara’s Guillaume Payen-Bouchard stole the ball from Wigginton, setting up a Babb-Harrison three-pointer. After a missed Wigginton three, Phil Scrubb made a four-point play after a sinking a triple while being fouled. The Hamilton bench was called for a technical foul, and Thomas Scrubb tacked on a free throw.  

In the Elam Ending, the target score is set at nine points above the tally of the team in the lead after the first whistle with fewer than four minutes left in the fourth quarter. The three-year-old CEBL is the only pro league in the world that uses the rule.

The River Lions will host the Ottawa BlackJacks (4-8) on Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines.

(Cover photo courtesy of Niagara River Lions.)

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