Five's Glaze, Highlanders' Jones leave NBLC, sign elsewhere
By José Colorado
Jahii Carson, Doug Herring Jr., Grandy Glaze, Kenny Jones.
No, this isn't the MVP watch.
It's just a handful of the league's elite performers who have decided to leave their respective clubs in recent weeks for supposed greener pastures elsewhere.
With the slew of departures leaving a gaping hole on a number of rosters, the No.1 spot appears to be more up for grabs than ever.
Currently the Moncton Magic still hold the league's best overall record at 12 – 6 (win-loss) but even they – just a bit over two weeks removed from the second-best start in league history – are just one game ahead of the St. John's Edge (11-6) and Cape Breton Highlanders (11-6) in the overall standings.
Needless to say, the 2019 Power Rankings could be seeing plenty of moving parts in the New Year's first few weeks.
1. St. John's Edge (11-6)
LW RANK: 3 | LW Record: 4-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Bye Week
The only thing that could possibly slow down the Edge at this point may be a break in play; they don't suit up again until Jan.19.
Otherwise, Doug Plumb's boys have to be the unquestioned alpha dogs at the moment as St. John's rattled off an impressive 4-0 (win-loss) week playing all its games away from Mile One Centre, concluding its six-game road trip.
In total the Edge have now won 10 of its last 11 games and have looked completely revitalized since the addition of Glen 'Big Baby' Davis to the lineup on Dec.12.
Alongside the big man, a number of Edge players have come to life of late most notably former Team Canada member Junior Cadougan – who put forth his best string of games by averaging 17.25 points per game and 5.75 assists for the week.
With such a hectic schedule now behind them the Edge can rest up for a few days, recalibrate and truly integrate Davis – who was given his first two starts this past week – into the team's system; a scary thought for the rest of the league.
2. KW Titans (8-5)
LW RANK: 4 | LW Record: 2-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Saint John
If you were looking for the breakout team of the year – search no further.
The KW Titans racked up its fourth and fifth straight win this past week as the squad dispatched the Windsor Express 118 -116 on Jan.5 and then followed suit the next night claiming a 103 – 98 victory over the Magic.
Flenard Whitfield returned to the lineup after a three-game absence and played a key role in the wins, notching a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) against the Express and then tallying 17 points, six rebounds and four assists versus Moncton.
With Whitfield coming off the pine alongside scoring dynamo Joel Friesen – who dropped 25 points against the Magic - KW's league-leading offense just got a bit better.
And with the Titans riding high on a season-high five-game win streak and eight of its next nine games at home, the time for a big push is now.
3. Moncton Magic (12-6)
LW RANK: 1 | LW Record: 1-3 | Upcoming Schedule: @The Island, @Halifax
Let the free fall begin.
Since its historic 10-game winning streak to begin the 2018 -2019 NBLC season ended, the Magic have taken a sharp nose dive losing six of its last eight.
This past week was no different as Moncton went 1-3 with its lone victory coming in a 94-85 win against the lowly Island Storm on Dec.31.
Moncton's once stifling defense in particular has taken a significant step back since the win streak concluded and the departures of a number of key members.
In the first 10 games the Magic only allowed its opponents to cross the 100-point threshold twice.
In the last eight, Moncton's foes have hit 100 points or more six times – with three of those coming this past week alone.
Indeed, the Magic still lead the league in points allowed at 96.9 per game but that could be changing.
And with the league's third-worst offense at 100.7 points per outing, a bumpier – and more complicated – road certainly lies ahead for the once dominant team.
4. Cape Breton Highlanders (11-6)
LW RANK: 2 | LW Record: 2-2 | Upcoming Schedule: @Windsor, @London, @Sudbury
What an emotional week it was for the Highlanders.
With Kenny Jones bidding farewell and Bruce Massey doing likewise to only recant days later, Cape Breton didn't play too bad all things considered.
The club's season-high seven-game win streak came to an end but that must have been a secondary consideration as Cape Breton dodged a serious blow by retaining the services of Massey – who is playing at an MVP level right now with averages of 22.1 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and 5.9 assists.
Coach Bernardo Fitz- Gonzalez's defense had made significant strides during the club's win streak – limiting its opponents to just 97 points per game - but that took a bit of a step back this past week as Cape Breton relinquished 107.75 points per contest on 50.32 per cent shooting from the floor.
With the recent drama and a .500 record for the week, the Cape takes a slight hit in the rankings but that could quickly be changing with news of NBLC veteran Mike Glover being added to the mix.
5. Halifax Hurricanes (9-8)
LW RANK: 6 | LW Record: 2-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Moncton, @The Island
Back-to-back road wins has to mean a bump up for the Halifax Hurricanes as the club took care of the Highlanders (112 -109) and the Saint John Riptide (114 -110) this past week.
The former victory comes particularly impressive as the 'Canes halted Cape Breton's seven-game win streak and did so at their full force – meaning prior to the departure of the Highlanders' Jones.
Mike Poole – perhaps attuned to last week's criticism of the starters - played the starring role as the NBLC veteran averaged 32 points for the week, including a season-high 39 points against the Riptide, on a stunning 60 per cent shooting (24-of-40) clip.
With 12 games played in December, head coach Mike Leslie couldn't be happier to see the month pass by as Halifax – winners of three straight – can now rest up and refocus with a friendlier schedule the rest of the way.
Exhausted....bone dead tired. I've asked someone every day what day it is. But loved the grit @hfxhurricanes players demonstrated through a gruelling schedule. @miketk1poole @DaBiz12 leading on/off the court. Why is Poole Shark scoring? #hardwork you do when nobody is watching.— Mike Leslie (@HurricaneHoops) January 3, 2019
6. London Lightning (8-8)
LW RANK: 5 | LW Record: 2-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Cape Breton, @Windsor, Saint John
Ugly wins are always better than pretty losses – and that's how the Lightning must be feeling after a 2-1 week.
Ranking as the third-worst defensive team in the league, London actually put in a pair of solid efforts on that side of the ball as the Bolts clamped down for a 109 -107 overtime win over the Magic on Jan.3 and a 100 – 93 victory over the Sudbury Five on Jan.6.
In both victories, London's opponents shot below 41 per cent from the floor, below 30 per cent from three-point range and committed an average of 17 turnovers per contest.
The lone blemish of the week came in a dizzying offensive race on Jan.4 in which – despite shooting 60.5 per cent from the floor and 52 per cent from three-point land – the Lightning managed to concede a 129 -124 loss to the Five.
London has won three of its last four but with the Titans emerging and Halifax ending its month on a high note, they move down one spot.
7. Sudbury Five (9-9)
LW RANK: 7 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Cape Breton
With the departure of workhorse, Grandy Glaze, announced on Jan.2 the Five played like a team slighted in their first game sans the fan favorite.
Posting season-highs in field goals made (49), three-point percentage (50 per cent) and steals (14) while notching its second-highest point total (129), Sudbury claimed a 129 -124 win over the Lightning on Jan.4.
Two nights later however the club's inconsistency got the better of them in the rubber match as the Five fizzled out in a 100 – 93 loss at Budweiser Gardens.
Logan Stutz's club shot just 38.5 per cent from the floor and committed a season-high (tied) 19 turnovers in that match.
So maybe an adjustment period looms after all.
Whatever the case, Stutz must be hoping for some semblance of consistency in the club's upcoming pair of home games – they hit the road for a tough six-game trip afterwards.
8. Windsor Express (5-8)
LW RANK: 8 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: Cape Breton, Saint John, London
Windsor notched its signature win of the season by man-handling the Magic's lead-leading defense in a 110 -102 victory on Jan.4 as the Express marched to the line 35 times (making 26) and tallied 40 bench points.
Unfortunately a timid third quarter in which the Express scored just 21 points to KW's 32 proved fatal one night later as the Titans withstood a valiant fourth quarter rally to hold on for the 118 -116 win.
One win is serviceable but two wins would have been monumental for the Express as they have now won four of its last six.
While it is evident Windsor is clearly a few notches ahead of the bottom of the barrel teams – i.e. the Riptide and Storm, it remains to be seen where exactly they fit in with the middle of the pack bunch – i.e. Lightning, Hurricanes, Five.
The offense is there as evidenced with the league's third-best attack (109.3 points per game) but the defense must continue to improve; Windsor has allowed its opponents to score 110-plus points in four of its last seven games.
A successful three-game home stand this week would do wonders for them.
9. Saint John Riptide (3-11)
LW RANK: 9 | LW Record: 0-3 | Upcoming Schedule: @Kitchener-Waterloo, @Windsor, @London
A momentum win was within the Riptide's grasp but ultimately the club came away with an empty-handed week, going 0-3.
In particular a double-overtime 105 – 101 nail-biting loss must have stung as Saint John's caught the Edge on the tail end of its six-games-in-nine-days tour.
After pulling together a 3-3 record for the month of December, Saint John has fallen back on hard times with four consecutive losses.
This past week provided a glimmer of hope however as the Riptide – the league's lone member to average below 100 points per game – crossed the century mark in two of its three outings; tying for the team's best offensive stretch which occurred in early December.
With an imminent five-game road trip, Saint John must make certain it doesn't fall too far behind in the standings; 2-3 would have to be considered a success.
10. Island Storm (2-11)
LW RANK: 10 | LW Record: 0-4 | Upcoming Schedule: Moncton, Halifax
Four more games, four more losses.
As losers of a league-high 10 straight perhaps a complete overhaul is in order for the Island.
The only question that remains is how long will Storm brass sit ideally by until serious changes are made?