Heading into the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Championship Weekend the changes for the Hamilton Honey Badgers was a question mark. The team qualified for the league’s inaugural championship weekend with a fourth place finish and a .500 record. Not only that but Hamilton would be facing the first place Niagara River Lions in the first game on Saturday night. Not only was Niagara tops in the league, but Hamilton has faced them four times in the regular season and only come away with a single win.
Niagara was also their last regular season opponent, a home finale that saw the River Lions top the Honey Badgers by 14 points.
But that was the regular season. In the playoffs anything can happen. In fact the host team of the Championship Weekend, third seed Saskatchewan Rattlers, proved that in the preceding game when they defeated the second place Edmonton Stingers.
The Honey Badgers and River Lions put everything on the court all game with the neither team giving up much ground for the full forty minutes. By the end of the first quarter the teams were tied. At the end of the half Hamilton lead by a free throw. The third quarter finished with Niagara in the lead by a single point.
And that’s how the game would end with the Honey Badgers narrowly defeating the favourites in a 104-103 final score.
But the last 90 seconds of the game was an intense affair. Niagara missed three of their last four free throw attempts. Hamilton blew a lead pass up court which went out of bounds. The River Lions also threw a three-pointer with the clock ticking down wide of the basket. That last shot was all that Hamilton needed as they made the offensive rebound and got the ball out of their zone as the buzzer sounded.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes led the Honey Badgers in points on the night with 28 points. Rathan-Mayes hit six field goals and four from beyond the arc. Ricky Tarrant Jr. had 22 points including three field goals, four three-pointers, and was a perfect four for four from the charity stripe.
Demetrius Denzel-Dyson had 21 points and was 60% from the floor and 71% from three-point land. Sampson Carter had 16 points, Joe Rocca and Murphy Burnatowski both had 6 points while Mike Fraser had 5 points.
The Honey Badgers will now look to face the host team the Saskatchewan Rattlers on Sunday night at 6:00pm ET in the CEBL Championship Game. The game can be watched on CBCSports.ca, on CEBL.tv, and will also be on TSN 1150.