Tuesday, April 17, 2018 (LONDON, ON) – The London Lightning and St John's Edge tipped off the Central Division Finals with a double overtime thriller. The Lightning won 140-133. The Lightning honoured Londoner and 2018 Olympian, Alex Kopacz, who won gold in two-man bobsleigh, at tonight's game.
Head coach, Keith Vassell, knows how important it was to win game one on home court and he had a full team of Lightning that was bought in to doing just that. "I thought that we had good looks in the first half they just didn't fall. In the second quarter we were 0-10 from three, they just didn't go down. They mixed up the defense and changed the pace in the second… But then our guys stepped up, in third quarter Ryan came in and was determined to not give up. Then he fouled out and Kyle stepped up, Royce made some plays, Julian came in and hit shots; it was a team effort. These guys want to win, they are defending champs and they all want to win. They know they have to step up and a lot of them did."
Garrett Williamson was key for the Lightning down the stretch and into overtime, getting to the free throw line and hitting big shots. Williamson notched a double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds. Williamson echoed coach Vassell's thoughts on how important it was that the team as a whole stepped up when it mattered. "It was a dog fight. They came to play, we came to play; it's a game of runs and the ball finds energy. They had us on the ropes a lot, I think the biggest thing for us was keeping our focus, keeping our composure down the stretch… I got the biggest confidence in these guys; KJ [Kyle Johnson] made huge shots, Royce made plays, everybody was making plays. We knew if we just stuck the course and focused on getting stops, down the stretch we had confidence we would pull this out. Down five in both overtimes, guys stepped up and made big plays. I'm proud of these guys, we kept our composure down the stretch, there were times we could have lost our composure and focus. That is the biggest thing in the playoffs, in close games like this, everything is on the line, you can't afford to have any mental mistakes. Guys really stepped up and stayed together and that's really what we are trying to hang our hats on, that unity."
The Lightning had a big performance from Royce White; 35 points, ten rebounds, seven assists along with five blocks and four steals. Julian Boyd was key coming off the bench tonight, adding 18 points and seven rebounds. Kyle Johnson hit clutch shots in overtime including the tying three at the end of the first overtime, he finished with 14 points.
Game two of the Central Division Finals is this Thursday, April 19th at seven P.M. at Budweiser Gardens. Tickets are available at the Budweiser Gardens Box Office or www.lightningbasketball.ca.
Games three, four and if necessary, five will be played in St. John's Newfoundland beginning on Saturday. To follow along and for all playoff updates stay tuned to London Lightning on Facebook and Twitter and to www.lightningbasketball.ca.