Inside the Lambton College Athletics & Fitness Complex on Friday night, the Lambton Lions men’s basketball team opened their 2019-20 regular season with an 84-75 win over the visiting Niagara College Knights.
The Lions started out slow, and the Knights raced out to a 13-8 lead, prompting Lambton Head Coach James Grant to call a timeout to try and regain his team’s focus. Whatever was said in the huddle seemed to work, as the Lions outscored Niagara by a 14-8 margin the rest of the way to take a 22-21 lead after the opening 10 minutes.
A 20-9 second quarter for the Lions gave the home side a 12-point lead at the break. Their big second half helped build confidence for the team in the second half, which they needed when Niagara made things close in the fourth quarter.
For the first time this year, the Lions faced some adversity. With a perfect 7-0 record in the preseason, and their toughest test coming at the hands of the Dynamiques de Sainte-Foy at the SLC Invitational, the Lions found themselves in unfamiliar territory in the first quarter.
“We hadn’t experienced that yet, and there were some times in that game where we were up against some adversity that we hadn’t seen yet,” said Grant. “I think with the preseason we had, some guys were a little nervous.”
“It was good that we came through.”
Lambton outscored the Knights by a 43-28 margin over the second and third quarters, excelling on both ends of the floor. The Lions stressed defense throughout the preseason, and it paid off in the middle quarters.
“We’ve been asking a lot of them on defense,” added Grant. “I think guys really bought into trusting each other, fighting through screens and everyone being on the same page.”
Forward Jason Watts (Detroit, Mich.; 5th Year) picked up where he left off last season. He recorded yet another double-double, posting a team-best 26 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Watts shot 10-of-19 from the floor in the win.
“A big part of it was my teammates,” said Watts. “Coach drew up some plays to allow me to do some things that I do well, and my teammates set me up great tonight.”
“Hopefully we can keep going as a team and keep driving.”
Tyvell Peters (Jane & Finch, Ont.; 3rd) had 14 points of his own in the win, while Deiondre Reid (Scarborough, Ont.; 2nd) had five points and 11 rebounds.
Niagara guard Lequan Hylton led all scorers with 29 points in a losing effort.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Lions, as they now turn their focus to the Mohawk Mountaineers on Saturday afternoon. The Lions and Mountaineers will take to the court at the Lambton College Athletics & Fitness Complex on Saturday afternoon for a 3 p.m. tipoff.