(Greater Sudbury, ON) Five short days after leaving the Sudbury Arena to close out 2018, the defending champion London Lightning returned to Sudbury looking to dampen the new year excitement in the Nickel City.
The Five entered Friday night's contest after a difficult end to 2018. Playing a league high 12 times in the month of December, the expansion franchise was short-handed for Saturday's match-up. The Five were without recently departed Grandy Glaze who had progressed to an opportunity in Chile, while guard Jaylen Bland missed his sixth game of the season with a lower body injury.
Both teams enjoyed strong starts to the first quarter, with the Five drawing first blood when Braylon Rayson hit a game opening three pointer. Rayson had a strong start to the game with eight points and two rebounds in the first to lead all players in scoring. Cory Dixon also added in six points in the opening quarter. The Lightning were led by Xavier Moon, who dictated the tempo of the game for London, pushing the floor on each possession. The Goodwater, AL native had seven points in the first and helped the Lightning come out to a two-point lead after the first 12 minutes.
The Five and Lightning both continued to shoot the ball well into the second. Both team's shot above 50% from the field and from three in the quarter, with the Five scoring on 14 of their 23 attempted shots in the frame. The quarter was dominated by Braylon Rayson and Travis Releford for the Five. Rayson scored 11 in the quarter, while Releford chipped in for 10 points. The Lightning enjoyed a team firstquarter, with eight of the team's ten players registering at least two points in the second quarter. After 24 minutes, the Five trailed by four, 67-63.
The third quarter brought a significant change in team defense for the Lightning. After scoring 19 in the first quarter, the Lightning shifted to a full court press on guard Braylon Rayson, limiting any time the 5-foot-9 had with the ball. As a result, the floor opened for Eerie, PA native Adam Blazek. Blazek led all players in scoring in the quarter with 12 points and four assists in nine minutes. Both Blazek and Releford failed to miss a shot in the quarter, with Releford adding eight points of his own. Moving into the final frame, the Five held a one-point lead, 96-95.
When it mattered most down the stretch, the Five starters took over for the northern club. The starters led by Cory Dixon's 11 points in the quarter, scored all 33 fourth quarter points for the Five. The Five battled to keep the lead through the first six minutes, before a Marvell Waithe jump shot gave the Lightning the 114-113 lead. With the team's deadlocked at 124 with 0:44 seconds remaining, Travis Releford fought through traffic in the paint to get the bucket, and draw the foul, putting the Five up three late. The Lightning looked to be back into the game on the next possession when Waithe was fouled behind the three-point line for the Lightning. However, the Lightning forward missed all three free throws, and once Blazek grabbed the defensive rebound for the Five, the team never looked back, winning the game 129-124.
Braylon Rayson and Travis Releford led all players in points with 29 each, marking a new season high for Releford. Rayson was named the BOSS Supplements Sudbury Boss of the Game after yet another strong performance at home. Adam Blazek finished with a season high 27 points, while Cory Dixon finished with 23 points.
The win snapped the Five's three game losing streak, adding some separation from the Lightning in the divisional standings. The Five now travel south to London for an afternoon rematch on Sunday, as they look to complete the weekend sweep against the defending champs.