ST. CATHARINES — The Edmonton Stingers have served notice to the rest of the Canadian Elite Basketball League, that they mean business.
Having already clinched a Summer Series playoff berth, the Stingers locked up the top seed and a direct bye to the semifinals after a commanding 85-71 win over the Guelph Nighthawks on Monday night at the Meridian Centre.
Adika Peter-McNeilly led the Stingers with 21 points and nine rebounds, while Travis Daniels recorded 17 points and three rebounds, including the game-winning bucket in Elam time to secure the victory for Edmonton, who finished the round-robin with a 5-1 record.
Joel Friesen scored 14 points in a losing cause for Guelph, who fell to 3-2 in the Summer Series.
The Stingers’ trademark defence was once again on high display as they held the Nighthawks to just 34% shooting from the field, and dominated the glass out rebounding Guelph 51-33.
“I’m really proud of our effort and how cohesive we’re playing right now,” said Stingers head coach Jermaine Small.
“Guys are hungry. They’re taking it personal and they want to play with energy and grit and it showed on both ends of the floor tonight.
“Rebounding is the No.1 thing, and I always preach and talk about it and we did an amazing job on the glass. When our guards rebound like they did tonight, we’re going to be a real hard team to beat.”
It was a big bounce back game offensively for Peter-McNeilly. The former Ryerson Ram star always brings tenacious defence, and can shoot well from beyond the arc, but after back-to-back rough shooting nights, Peter-McNeilly found his shooting stroke and stepped up in a big way.
“People go through funks all the time. I just wanted to be aggressive and not just focus on the outside shot. I attacked the basket more, and even though I didn’t shoot the ball well from three, I got more shots falling,” said McNeilly.
“We all believe in each other and my teammates continued to encourage me, and it felt great to be able to contribute in the win.”
Peter-McNeilly relishes the role as the team’s sixth-man, and the veteran guard shone in the spotlight against Guelph.
“Deeks is an extension of our coaching staff. He always makes sure we’re organized. He made some real clutch shots tonight and he makes winning plays,” said Small.
“He’s such a big part of what we do. He’s the identity of our program.”
After a back-and-forth opening quarter that saw Edmonton hold just a 22-20 lead, they stepped on the gas in the second quarter and didn’t look back the rest of the way.
The Stingers held Guelph to just nine points in the second quarter and held a commanding 47-29 lead at the half after going on a 10-3 run to close out the half.
“We wanted to get into the key and make it tough on them to make plays. We’re good when we get in there and battle and tonight we had a lot of different guys bring energy defensively,” said Peter-McNeilly.
A big part of the Nighthawks success in the Summer Series has been the team’s depth scoring. While Guelph’s bench once again put forth a strong effort, the Stingers wanted to prove their bench can play a big role, too.
Zac Overwater chipped in with eight points and six rebounds off the bench, and Edmonton received a tournament team-high 34 points from their bench.
“We know their bench is strong and they’re one of the team’s in the Summer Series that has a real deep bench,” said Peter-McNeilly.
“I always tell our guys that come in off the bench to play hard, with a lot of energy and be confident in your shot and everything will fall in line.
Edmonton held a 76-59 lead going into the Elam Ending, and Overwater hit a layup to give the Stingers a 78-64 lead, but after Peter-McNeilly and Xavier Moon hit a pair of free throws each, Daniels buried the three-pointer at the top of the arc to seal the win for Edmonton.
The Stingers have the top-ranked offence in the Summer Series, and during the team’s five-game win streak in the tournament, their blue-collar defence has been in the forefront.
“We always come with the mindset to shut teams down to a certain amount of points each quarter and we let our defence dictate how we do on offence and we really focused on being aggressive at both ends of the floor tonight,” said Peter-McNeilly.
“Tonight was the biggest game of our season, and we didn’t want to look too far ahead. It was important for us to take care of business tonight.”(pr)