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River Lions dominate home opener (9 photos)

New league, new season for the Niagara River Lions

By Stephen Dyell ThoroldNews

An offensive showcase helped cap an impressive home opening win Thursday night as the Niagara River Lions defeated the Edmonton Stingers 108-66.

Head coach and general manager Victor Raso said the win was redemption after a heartbreaking overtime loss last week to the Stingers during their first road trip to kick off the Canadian Elite Basketball League season.

“We knew how good we could be after letting one get away from us. These guys were locked in from the first practice back and were waiting for this opportunity.”

The River Lions wasted no time and blew out to a 58-36 lead at half.

Active hands on the defensive end in the second half helped put the game away with Niagara scoring 21 points off turnovers.

Ryan Anderson finished with a team high 21 points – five of those from three players. Dorian Pinson scored 14 and Trae Bell-Haynes added 16 while dishing out five assists. Niagara handed out 26 assists as a team while Edmonton only managed 16.

“I'm lucky to have very unselfish passers,” said Raso. “Things are going to open up when you have a roster of players willing to do that and you saw that tonight.”

The coach praised the way players are gaining chemistry through practice and a lot of that has to do with the make-up of the roster. Versatility was seen as an asset at the draft as they targeted players who could play multiple positions. That special mixture has spearheaded two wins this season.

Seven players played 19 minutes or more in Thursday night's contest and Raso says that will be a big factor in the success of the team.

“We only have nine professionals on the roster with Tyler (Brown), so all nine of these guys can go when called upon. We built the team to be versatile because you need everyone to contribute in every position.”

Brown, the U SPORTS Athlete for Niagara, earned his first professional point off a free throw in the second half.

River Lions hit the road for their next game against the Saskatchewan Rattlers on May 24. They'll return home on May 31 to take on the Fraser Valley Bandits.