Both clubs make first finals appearance in franchise history
By José Colorado
Talent has won out.
Although sputtering to the finish line of the NBLC regular season and enduring a late season coaching change, the St. John's Edge are headed to its first-ever championship final following a 4-2 (win-loss) series victory over the KW Titans.
That – in large part – comes by way of simply having a bigger, better and more talented roster.
Indeed when looking at the Central Final, one can quickly see the benefits of gambling on the nine-year NBA pro Glen Davis as the big man averaged 20 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists on 52 per cent shooting for the series.
Beyond that, former national team member Murphy Burnatowski played a fine side kick averaging 17 points per game and five rebounds on 45.45 per cent shooting.
And remember, this was all done without St. John's having its starting lead guard, Junior Cadougan, to direct traffic and with various other players dealing with injuries (e.g. Olu Ashaolu – dislocated finger, Desmond Lee- lower body injury).
When as loaded as the Edge are, sometimes it becomes a matter of addition by subtraction as roles become more clearly delineated and coaches are liberated of tough decisions.
With the Championship Finals starting up promptly however it's tough to tell who will be in the line up come Gm.1.
THE MATCH UP
Regardless what happens it is certain to be a spectacular final as the Moncton Magic will represent the Atlantic division via an 85-82 Gm.7 victory on May 5 over the Halifax Hurricanes.
Unfortunately when it comes to the season series battle between the two finalists there really wasn't one as the Magic went 4-1 against the Edge.
Granted it is difficult to envision such a similarly lopsided result occurring in the finals as all of those games came before the conclusion of mid-February, meaning much has changed since then.
What is to be guaranteed however: a continued focus on the defensive end as both teams held its conference final opponent to under 100 points per match for the series.
In particular the three-point shot must be a point of emphasis for both squads as the Edge lead the league in long-distance makes (591) and attempts (1695) while the Magic have the second-highest percentile shooting rate (36 per cent).
A rejuvenated Carl English (39 per cent three-point percentage) adds an interesting wrinkle to Moncton's defensive game plan as the shooting guard must be accounted for.
WHO CAN SLOW TREY KELL?
On the offensive side of the ball, it's clear the Magic's offense goes as Trey Kell does as the rookie averaged 22 points, nine rebounds, 4.14 assists and two steals on 43 per cent versus the Hurricanes in the Atlantic Finals.
With the guard averaging multiple team-highs and initiating attacks in both the half court (e.g. pick-and-roll) and back court (e.g. grabbing rebounds and starting the fast break), expect the Edge's athletic Lee to get the assignment to slow him down.
Simply put should Kell be unable to duplicate his stellar playoff run on the league's biggest stage, it will be very difficult for Moncton to capture its first-ever NBLC championship.
BIG MAN'S FLAVOUR
Down low a Billy White – Davis match up provides another compelling element.
On the one hand, Davis' girth (290 lbs) and skill should easily be able to overpower White's frail frame (235 lbs) when situated on the block in one-on-one scenarios.
But on the flip side, the Moncton big man can exploit his agility by 'rim-running' (i.e. sprinting from rim to rim as fast possible on fast breaks) and attacking Davis' foot speed off the dribble in the half court whenever possible.
In that way White can not only score points for his squad but also possibly slow Davis down offensively by making him work on defense.
When it comes down to it, the Edge still have the clear talent and experience advantage in high-stake games (e.g. former NBAers and national team members on the team).
But Moncton has been the best team from the start to now and just dispatched arguably the second-best team in the league in the Hurricanes.
Whatever the outcome it appears as though the two best teams from each respective conference have emerged, something that is far from a guarantee in professional sports.
And as an NBLC fan what more could you ask for but to sit back and enjoy the grand finale regardless of the end result.