After losing in the CEBL semifinals last year, Edmonton books first-ever tip to CEBL championship with convincing win over Ottawa
ST. CATHARINES — It was a loss that stuck with the Edmonton Stingers for almost an entire calendar year, and when the team had their second opportunity this time around, they didn’t just redeem themselves — they made a statement.
Edmonton will now play for their first-ever Canadian Elite Basketball League championship on Sunday after a convincing 88-75 win over the Ottawa Blackjacks, Saturday afternoon at the Meridian Centre.
Mathieu Kamba led Edmonton with 26 points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Xavier Moon chipped in with 13 points, five assists and four rebounds and Jordan Baker recorded a double-double with 13 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in the win.
Olivier Hanlan recorded 17 points and five rebounds in the loss for Ottawa.
Edmonton will face the Fraser Valley Bandits tomorrow at 10 a.m. MT (CBC Sports, CBC Gem and Twitch) for the CEBL championship.
“The feeling of last year was still on my mind. That’s all I was thinking about. Losing last year (in the semifinals of Championship Weekend) was an awful feeling and we didn’t want to experience that again,” said Moon, who hit the game-winning bucket in Elam Ending time.
“We attacked (this game) differently. We stayed composed and we took care of business and I’m so proud of the guys for sticking together.”
The Stingers jumped out to a commanding 20-4 lead and looked like they were going to blow out the Blackjacks, but Ottawa settled in and went on a big 16-5 run to end the opening quarter, but Edmonton didn’t allow Ottawa to gain any more big momentum swings.
The Blackjacks led just once more early in the second quarter, but a Kamba trey gave Edmonton a 30-28 lead and they didn’t look back.
“We knew they’d make their run, but we didn’t panic. We locked in defensively and started to get stops and started to build momentum back,” said Moon.
For Kamba, the feeling of redemption must have felt a bit sweeter. He couldn’t participate in last year’s Championship Weekend, but the 24-year-old was simply dominant in the team’s first-ever playoff victory.
“Missing out last year was really tough on me. That’s been my whole motivation today and throughout this tournament. I felt like I let the team down last year, and I came in this year wanting to be a difference-maker,” said Kamba.
“I play a lot of different roles. I’m more of a 3-and-D guy for our team, but I’ve put a lot of work in to diversify my game and I feel like this is the best I’ve ever shot the ball. My teammates have a lot of trust in me to shoot the ball.”
Edmonton’s depth in the Summer Series has been a big factor in their run to the championship as they continue to get contributions from different players up and down their lineup.
Kamba’s been a big factor in every game of the Summer Series and, his 26 points, was the most he’s scored as a Stinger.
“Right before we came back to the locker room after warm up I told (Kamba) him he was going to be a difference maker, and he was unstoppable today,” said Moon.
“The points are just one part of what he brings to us. He’s such a tough lock down defender and he brings so much energy at both ends of the floor. We’re lucky to have him back this year, and I’m proud of the performance he had today. It was big for us.”
In the second half, the Stingers ramped up their defence and continued to smother the Blackjacks top scorers. Edmonton made Ottawa pay, scoring 27 points off turnovers.
“”We knew they had to play four games in five days, so it was important for us to get on them from the jump,” said Moon.
“We focused on getting them out in transition and making them run. Once we got them down, we wanted to keep them down.”(pr)