Stingers win thriller over River Lions

Jordan Baker hit a driving layup to cap  off the comeback as Edmonton earned a 87-86 win on Friday afternoon at the Meridian Centre.(Stingers photo)

Edmonton earns first-ever Elam Ending comeback victory in CEBL history with a dramatic win over Niagara

ST. CATHARINES — Resiliency. Toughness. Composure.

The Edmonton Stingers are proving that won’t be a team that folds under pressure in the Summer Series.

The Stingers trailed for almost the entire second half and Elam Ending against the Niagara River Lions, but Jordan Baker hit a driving layup to cap  off the comeback as Edmonton earned a 87-86 win on Friday afternoon at the Meridian Centre.

“In a tight game, you have to make every possession count. Everybody had to stay composed. We got stops down the stretch and made our free throws and some real tough buckets,” said Stingers point guard Xavier Moon.

“We got lots of guys who can make plays and we rely on everybody and we lean on each other and that’s the biggest part of our team.”

Moon led the Stingers with 24 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals, and Baker had another big performance recording 19 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in the win as Edmonton improved to 3-1.

Trae Bell-Haynes led Niagara with 23 points in the loss for the River Lions, who fell to 1-3 in the Summer Series.

The battles between Edmonton and Niagara the past two seasons have been nothing but drama-filled.

Multiple OT games, dramatic finishes and now the Stingers recorded the first-ever Elam Ending comeback in Canadian Elite Basketball history.

This game had it all.

“They’re our biggest rival. There’s no question,” said Stingers head coach Jermaine Small.

We’re so evenly matched. Every time we play them, it’s like a Game 7. The intensity goes up a notch.”

After a strong opening quarter, which the Stingers led 25-17, Niagara got hot from beyond the arc. An 11-point lead in the second quarter disappeared and Edmonton trailed 47-45 at the half.

The River Lions held one point leads at the end of the third quarter and into the Elam Ending and despite falling behind 82-77 after Kassius Robertson hit a fadeaway corner trey, the Stingers weren’t fazed.

“The tighter the game, the tighter we’re together. A lot of times in the huddle, I’m not even talking — they’re talking with me,” said Small.

“I know if we lock in and get stops and believe in each other, we will win.”

Baker and Moon hit clutch free throws and to tie it at 83-83. A Bell-Haynes three-pointer pushed the Stingers to the brink, but a bucket from Travis Daniels and a big defensive stop led to the dramatic finish by Baker.

“The thing about Jordan, I don’t ever really run any plays for him. He knows the open spots, and he’s making shots now. He’s doing it all for us right now,” said Small.

“There’s no question in my mind he’s the MVP right now.”

On the final possession, the River Lions focused their attention on Moon. When Baker got the ball at the top of the three-point line, he got inside of defender Guillaume Boucard and drove the lane for the winning bucket.

“We knew they were going to deny Moon, and I told Jordan to take the hand off from Deeks (Adika Peter-McNeilly) and fake it and go to his left and he was wide open,” said Small.

After a slow start to the tournament with a disappointing loss to the Fraser Valley Bandits, the Stingers are looking more and more like the championship contenders from last year.

“We brought back the core for a reason. We don’t like how last season ended and we’re in a groove now,” said Small.

“Guys are hungry and they all feel like we have unfinished business. We’re focused on getting stronger and stronger every game.” (pr)

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