The final day of the OCAA Men’s Basketball Championship saw the hosting Niagara Knights defeat the Lambton Lions 89-83 in the tournament’s consolation final. Saturday’s matchup between the two west division programs marks the end of the road for each program, as neither qualified for this year's CCAA Championships in Laval, Quebec.
The game began as a back and forth affair, each team trading their respective blows. Knights’ veteran guard Levi Mukuna was on fire in the first half of the game going 3-5 beyond the arc while attributing to 15 of his program’s 42 first half points. Lambton’s offence looked stagnant, going down by 13 points at the end of the half.
The Lions’ offence exploded in the third quarter, seemingly finding their ability to score on command. The major factor behind Lambton’s potent third quarter was the impressive performances of guards’ Branden Padgett (Detroit, Michigan) and Jason Watts (Detroit, Michigan). The duo were deeply involved in Lambton’s offensive push, combining for 21 of the team’s 41 third quarter points. By the end of the third, the momentum had shifted in favour of the Lions, putting the Sarnia based program up by 5 (70-65).
Niagara found their rhythm in the final quarter, chipping away at the Lions' lead until both programs were tied at 76 a piece. The Knights' offence would do the rest of the work, collecting 13 of the last 22 points solidifying the victory.
Knights’ head coach Mike Hurley was impressed with how his team competed even after losing their quarter-final to Seneca. “It was great to get the win against Lambton today,” said Hurley. “It showed great character coming back and finishing strong by winning our last two games of the year even after losing a heart breaking game on Thursday to the number 1 ranked team in the Country. Our goal was to get to nationals but finishing the season as the 5th best team in Ontario is definitely a great accomplishment and something to be proud about.”
Veteran guard Levi Mukuna was impressive in his last game as a Knight, earning player of the game honours posting a team high 23 points and 11 rebounds. When asked about his experience representing the blue and white over the past 5 seasons, Mukuna was lost for words. “It has been an absolute privilege to be a Niagara Knight, and it meant so much to me to end my career with a home victory.”
Other impressive Knights’ performances came from 3rd year players Van Hutchinson Jr. (Nassau, Bahamas) and Jordan McDonald (Mississauga, Ont.), both contributing 20+ points to the winning cause.
Lambton’s offence was led by their offensive duo of Branden Padgett and Jason Watts. In his final game as a Lion, Padgett posted a game high 28 points. Watts was awarded player of the game honours after posting 20 points against the hosting Knights.
Both programs will be back in action when the new OCAA Men's Basketball season tips off in October.