'It was unreal' — Five outlast Lightning in thriller

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Just when it seemed as though the Sudbury Five wouldn’t have their way, something else went wrong.

With only 1:46 left in their visit to Budweiser Gardens in London on Thursday night and with the host Lightning nursing a seven-point lead, the Five’s shot clock went out, potentially hampering their bid for a late rally

“Me and the opposing coach came together, and the ref told us what had happened, and I said, ‘We’re going to shoot so fast, we don’t need a shot clock,’” recalled Logan Stutz, Sudbury’s head coach. “The other coach said, ‘All right, fine, we’ll play without it,’ and I said, ‘OK, good,’ and that’s exactly what we did.”

Sure enough, Five guard Jarryn Skeete drained a three-pointer, and after London missed on its next possession, he hit another trey to make it a one-point game.

With the PA announcer counting down the remaining time, London missed yet again from the field, allowing Sudbury’s Marlon Johnson to drive the hoop and lay in the deciding basket, with just three seconds to play, in a 117-116 comeback victory.


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“It was unreal,” Stutz said with a chuckle. “I can’t say I’ve seen anything quite like that one, but when the shot clock went out, I was thinking OK, we can still win this game. Weird things happen for a reason and we just picked up momentum. The guys showed up and hit a couple of big shots down the stretch and won the game for us.”

Johnson finished with a game-high 36 points, while JR Holder scored 24, Dexter Williams Jr. 23, Jaylen Bland 18 and Skeete 13 for Sudbury, which improved to 9-6 with its first win over London this National Basketball League of Canada regular season.

“This is going to be a turning point for us,” Stutz said. “I have challenged the guys to find ways to win games and they did it. We were challenging them to close out quarters, close out halves, close out games, and they came up huge in the fourth quarter. Our defence only gave up 20 points and we found a way to win. That’s what good teams do. We have to turn the corner and become a great team.”

The Five certainly had a great start on Thursday and even with guard Braylon Rayson out due to a nagging injury, they struck eight times from beyond the three-point arc for a 31-30 advantage after one quarter.

In the second, however, London looked every bit like the more savvy, veteran team, and certainly one that could dominate under the hoop, with 21 rebounds to Sudbury’s eight.

Big man Randy Phillips, who went on to lead the Lightning with 32 points, was an impressive five for five from the field in the quarter, while hitting all four of his tries from the charity stripe, to help the hosts take a 63-62 lead into halftime.


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Twelve points for Marcus Capers and eight for Mareik Isom in the third had the Lightning, strong closers and unbeaten on home court, looking good to pad their lead atop the NBLC Central, even as Williams and Holder scored timely buckets to help the Five keep pace.

“We know that London plays a flawless fourth quarter,” Stutz said. “We practised for the fourth quarter all week, so the message was, ‘OK, we’re down eight, this is what we practised for. It’s going to take a lot of heart, it’s going to take a lot of energy and it’s going to take a lot of effort, and we can’t make a lot of mistakes,’ and we played a very good fourth quarter.”

Skeete poured in nine of his points in the final frame, while Johnson scored eight and Williams added six, while pulling down a couple of rebounds and driving his team-high total to 10.

Phillips remained a force, with eight points in the quarter, but was victimized on Johnson’s drive to the hoop — Phillips had just one personal foul and his team had one to give, yet the Sudbury forward took minimal contact as he flew toward the hoop.

Capers finished with 22 points, Isom 15 and AJ Gaines 14 for London, which fell to 12-4 on the season.

The Five will remain in southwestern Ontario through the weekend, before visiting the Windsor Express on Monday for a 5 p.m. tipoff.

“We’ll enjoy this one tonight, but when midnight hits, we have to lock back in,” Stutz said. “We have another road game and we have to get another road win.”


Twitter: @ben_leeson