The Cape Breton Highlanders professional basketball team entered Centre 200 on Tuesday evening looking for their first win of the season. Their competitors, the Windsor Express from Ontario, would not make it so easy.
The Highlanders took an early lead, but the Express quickly came back to take the first quarter 28 to 22. Poor free-throw shooting and weak defensive rebounding held the Highlanders back in the second quarter, ending the half down by 17 with the score 56-39.
The Highlanders chipped away in the third quarter, gaining a few points to end with a score of 81 to 69. As the fourth quarter started, it seemed that every time the Highlanders would gain some momentum to bring the score closer, the Express would answer back with a big three or jump shot to cool the comeback. But, then the Highlanders upped the defensive intensity, generating turnovers and rebounds. Eventually, the scrappy Cape Breton team took the lead with only a few minutes remaining.
With less than 16 seconds to play and the Express up by one, the Highlanders Duke Mondy drove to the hoop and, while falling out of bounds, bounced a pass to Haakim Johnson who took it up strong for the basket to put the Highlanders ahead 106 to 105. The Express had two shots on the basket in the final seconds of the game, but both fell short, earning Cape Breton a hard-fought win.
Leading the Highlanders was Haakim Johnson with an impressive 37 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists, including 7 threes. Tydran Beatynailed 19 points and 9 rebounds. Jamal Reynolds ignited the Highlanders with his active play in the second half, pulling down big rebounds and penetrating to the hoop. He finished with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 steals. Shane Osayande took charge on the boards pulling down 7 offensive rebounds and 5 defensive, while also adding 8 points. Duke Mondy added 8 points and 8 assists.
Leading the Express was Logan Stutz with 24 points and 11 rebounds.Braylon Rayson hit 6 threes for 20 points. Maurice Jones had 19. Former Highlanders Shaquille Keith had 18 points and 8 rebounds while Chad Frazier had 3 points and 2 assists.
The Highlanders play in Halifax on Friday and Saint John on Saturday. Fans can watch all away games live by clicking the YouTube link onHighlandersBasketball.ca
The next home game is Sunday, December 17 against the Niagara River Lions. Find out about tickets at HighlandersBasketball.ca/tickets