NBLC Power Rankings Week 15: Hurricanes, Lightning Continue to Strong-Arm

NBLC Power Rankings Week 15: Hurricanes, Lightning Continue to Strong-Arm

Both clubs have won six straight

By José Colorado

It may have taken them three months to truly gel together but the Halifax Hurricanes and London Lightning could likely care less at this point.

Both clubs continued to play their best basketball of the season in week 15 as the pair went a combined 3-0 (win-loss) with each squad holding a six-game winning streak to its name.

With London still to play six games and Halifax having 10 remaining, it's highly unlikely either will head to the postseason with the victorious string intact.

But as long as each continues to ascend in its play and show a level of consistency in its playing style, then both should find themselves on the top half of the NBLC Power Rankings by season's end.

1. Moncton Magic (20-10)
LW RANK: 1 | LW Record: 2-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Saint John, Kitchener-Waterloo

The Moncton Magic's charmed season continued in week 15 as it became the first team in the NBLC to clinch a playoff spot in a steely come-from-behind victory on Feb.24.

With the club already having to overcome a slew of mid-season subtractions, Joe Salerno's remaining soldiers seem more than capable of persevering for a deep playoff as they have now won eight of their last 11 games.

When coupled with the fact that rookie Trey Kell – who is averaging 23 points per game, 8.5 rebounds and 6.5 assists in his first six games – has more than made up for the losses of Jahii Carson and Doug Herring Jr. from earlier in the season then it truly has been a brilliant team effort on all fronts from the Magic organization.

Moncton mustn't lose focus now however; six of its remaining 10 games are on the road.

2. Halifax Hurricanes (18-12)
LW RANK: 3 | LW Record: 2-0 | Upcoming Schedule: @Saint John, @The Island

One was steadily paced the other helter and skeltered but however one wants to frame it, the Hurricanes just keep on finding ways to win – they've now strung together six straight.

In a 100-91 win over the Magic on Feb.18, Halifax put together 48 minutes of solid basketball by winning each quarter and holding serve in the final frame, containing Moncton to just 40 per cent shooting in the deciding period– well below its 48 per cent clip leading into the last segment.

In contrast a frantic 20-point comeback was needed for Halifax to come away with a 104 – 99 victory on Feb.21 as Mike Leslie's club trailed by 12 points heading into the fourth.

As per usual, MVP candidate Mike Poole was in the centre of the Hurricanes' fury as he racked up 19 points including three triples in the fourth quarter alone.

With only ten games remaining in its schedule and five of those being against sub .500 clubs, Halifax has a legitimate shot at overtaking the No.1 spot in the Atlantic.

3. London Lightning (18-16)
LW RANK: 4 | LW Record: 1- | Upcoming Schedule: Bye Week

With only one game on the docket for the week and riding a five-game winning streak, the Lightning blasted the St. John's Edge in a wire-to-wire 121 – 103 blowout win on Feb.21 at Budweiser Gardens.

Leading by as many as 32 points, the Bolts scorched at 52.3 per cent from the floor and 17-of-35 from three-point land (48.6 per cent) to go with just nine turnovers in what must be considered one of its most impressive wins of the season.

In fact, had it not been for an uncharacteristically poor foul-shooting night (14-of-22) then the margin would have likely been even greater as London shut down the Edge to just 41.4 per cent from the floor, including 25 per cent from long range.

With six straight wins under its belt, the only thing that may be stopping the Lightning's momentum at this point is the scheduling.

They don't play again until March 7.

4. Windsor Express (16-14)
LW RANK: 5 | LW Record: 1-0 | Upcoming Schedule: @Sudbury

A nightmare match up ended in a dream scenario as the Windsor Express finally took down the Edge 123 – 116 on Feb.20.

At 0-3 versus St. John's heading into week 15, Bill Jones' club played in explosive spurts as the club outscored its foe 29-19 and 36-27 in the first and third quarter.

With a 20 free throw attempt disparity working against them, the Express got by with 12 more field goal attempts, resulting in a 54.9 per cent shooting night.

But perhaps most impressive was the ball distribution as Windsor dished out 27 assists to just eight turnovers – explaining how the club was able to get off for a few dizzying offensive spells in the night.

With the Edge now out of the way for the rest of the regular season, the Express must ensure it does its part to avoid St. John's with a 1 v. 4 playoff match up; five of Windsor's remaining 10 matches will be against conference rivals.

5. St. John's Edge (17-14)
LW RANK: 2 | LW Record: 0-3 | Upcoming Schedule: @Sudbury, Cape Breton

Despite a slew of high-profile signings recently it's been anything but smooth sailing for the Edge as they dropped three straight in week 15 and have now lost six of its last eight matches.

Giving up a combined weekly average of 54 per cent to its trio of opponents (Express, Lightning, KW Titans), the Edge simply couldn't get enough defensive stops in its current four-game road swing as it conceded 120.33 points per match.

And while Shaquille Keith (12.3 points per game on 56.7 per cent shooting) and Russell Byrd (11 points per game) have had their offensive moments since being acquired a little over a week ago, it's clear that some defensive cohesion has been lost in the mix.

Luckily for the Edge, that could be remedied come playoff time as Doug Plumb's squad may have the league's most favourable schedule the rest of way, playing eight of its last nine matches at home.

That not only reduces travel fatigue but it also provides plenty of practice time to fine tune things down the stretch.

6. Sudbury Five (16-16)
LW RANK: 7 | LW Record: 1-1 | Upcoming Schedule: St. John's, Windsor

A double-dip against the Titans has the Sudbury Five coming out of week 15 at 1-1 as each team won on the opposing foe's home court.

In a 106 -104 win on Feb.18, Sudbury used a huge second-half rally outscoring its opponent 60 – 47.

But in the rematch three nights later, the league's best rebounding team got the better of the Five as the Northern Ontario boys managed only 30 boards - a new mark in team futility for the category.

With key reserve, Mamadou Gueye, also sitting out the latter match alongside Jaylen Bland – who missed his third consecutive match, the Five were simply overpowered on the offensive end as the league's second-best scoring team was limited to 22 points in two consecutive quarters.

While it's very likely Sudbury will make the postseason, should Bland be unable to participate at 100 per cent the inaugural franchise will be hard-pressed to make it out of the first round.

7. KW Titans (14-15)
LW RANK: 9 | LW Record: 2-1 | Upcoming Schedule: @Cape Breton, @The Island, @Saint John, @Moncton

The league's premier percentile three-point shooting team lived up to its billing and then some in week 15 as the Titans set two consecutive season-highs in long distance shooting.

After barely succumbing to the Five (106 -104) on Feb.18 – a game in which the Titans launched 41 threes, making 14, KW's snipers were locked in for the club's remaining two matches as the team combined to go 38-of-72 (53 per cent) from downtown.

In particular, Damon Lynn's performance against the Edge on Feb.23 will be remembered as the point guard bombed from all over en route to 34 points and six triples – both personal season-highs.

For that match the Titans set a new season-best in three-pointers at 20, upping its highest total from two nights earlier by two.

While a very impressive week, the upcoming string of games may just make-or-break KW's playoff chances as it cannot fall too far behind the Five for the last spot in the Central.

With four Atlantic road games in seven nights, fatigue and concentration is sure to be tested.

Smartly, Titans' management picked up another body just for the occasion.

8. Saint John Riptide (13-18)
LW RANK: 8 | LW Record: 2-0 | Upcoming Schedule: Halifax, Moncton, Kitchener-Waterloo

The Saint John Riptide's late-season surge continued in week 15 as the club picked up two more wins, making it six victories in its last eight outings.

When it comes to end-of-the-year storylines, head coach Nelson Terroba's club may be one of the most compelling as the squad has a legitimate shot at securing the third spot in the Atlantic playoff spot after having just three wins heading into the New Year.

They currently sit three games behind the Cape Breton Highlanders.

Speaking of which, the Riptide helped to close that gap between the two clubs when it downed the Cape 111 -87 on Feb.24.

The game marked an offensive explosion of sorts as the roster eclipsed the 110-plus point barrier for just the fifth time this season.

In its other win – a 100 – 95 victory over the Storm, Saint John connected on 10-of-21 three-pointers (47.6 per cent) – marking just the third occasion this campaign the club has shot above 45 per cent from long range.

Despite its record, the Riptide may just be one of the most dangerous teams in the league at the moment.

9. Cape Breton Highlanders (15-15)
LW RANK: 6 | LW Record: 0-2 | Upcoming Schedule: Kitchener, @The Island, @St. John's

A season-worst 24-point loss to the Riptide epitomized a gloomy week 15 for the Cape Breton Highlanders as they bid farewell to its team leader Bruce Massey.

The MVP candidate – who averaged 23.7 points per game, 7.4 rebounds and 5.8 assists – announced on Feb.21 that he would be finishing the season in the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague.

And what a bind does that put Cape Breton in as the club's free fall is in full swing, having lost eight of its last nine games.

A playoff spot is guaranteed with the Storm (5-22) so far behind the rest of the conference but does this once promising team still have a legitimate shot at making it to the finals?

It certainly looks very doubtful.

10. Island Storm (5-22)
LW RANK: 10 | LW Record: 0-3 | Upcoming Schedule: Kitchener-Waterloo, Cape Breton, Halifax

With five weeks to go in the regular season it appears the Island Storm are finding new ways to lose.

After dropping a 100 – 95 decision to the Riptide on Feb.18, the league's worst-placed club collapsed in back-to-back outings in what must be considered one of the most gut-wrenching weeks for the club.

Leading 87 – 75 versus the Hurricanes on Feb.21, the Storm were outscored 29 -12 in the final frame as the club went lifeless in a five-of-19 shooting quarter that included five turnovers to close out the game.

Incredibly, an even greater debacle awaited three nights later as the Island led 100 – 85 heading into the fourth versus the Magic.

Moncton proceeded to nearly drop 40 points in the closing frame while Tim Kendrick's club went cold again, shooting six-of-17 from the floor.

All things considered, it's somewhat difficult to label the two breakdowns as 'choke jobs'.

The Storm are - after all - the worst percentile shooting team in the league from both the floor (41.5 per cent) and three (31 per cent).

And when coupled with the fact that the Island also boast a middle-of-the-pack defensive unit (ranked sixth in points allowed), it's easy to see how spells of games could get out of hand rather quickly.