Our KW Titans refused to quit on Thursday as they stunned the visiting London Lightning in overtime in a game that went right down to the last second.
The game started off on a somber note as the two teams paid respect to the late basketball legend, Kobe Bryant and his young daughter Gianna who were victims in a tragic helicopter crash in Los Angeles this past Sunday.
The two squads both committed intentional 24-second and eight-second violations to start the game off in reference to the numbers Kobe wore throughout his career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Titans seemed to be inspired by Kobe’s “Mamba Mentality” early in the game as they manhandled the Lightning through the first 12 minutes of action.
London struggled to score the ball in the first while the Titans dominated the game in transition as they soared to double-figures in a hurry.
KW’s Akeem Ellis (24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists) looked to have his game face on and outscored the Lightning single-handedly in the first.
The Titans continued to apply pressure and gave up little ground in the first as they held the visitors to single-digits going into the second with a score of 26-9 for the home team.
KW gave London more of the same in the second and the advantage for the Titans grew to over 20 points throughout the quarter. Akeem Scott (27 points, three steals) was a man on a mission early on as he really brought a lot of toughness to the Titans’ lineup.
However, the Lightning pushed back as the second quarter went on and they were able to cut the lead down to single digits for the first time since the game’s opening minutes.
After exchanging buckets back and forth, the score sat at 47-37 for the Titans as the two teams went into their locker rooms to regroup at half time.
The Lightning’s coaching staff must’ve lit a fire under them at the intermission because the visiting club came out hungry and reinvigorated in the third quarter and even when the Titans struck back, London matched their intensity every step of the way.
The two teams were giving it to each other non-stop as the lead went from double to single-digits continuously.
Damon Lynn (26 points, eight assists, five steals) drained back-to-back three-pointers and pushed the Titans’ lead back up to a respectable 13 points but the Lightning refused to lay down.
London outscored KW 31-28 in the third and cut the lead to the smallest margin it had been at since early in the first and worse yet, the visitors showed no signs of tiring or slowing down.
The Titans led by just seven going into the fourth as the score read 75-68 for KW.
The Lightning went off in the fourth quarter. London’s Xavier Moon (37 points, seven assists, six- 3 p.m.) scored 20 points in the quarter alone and the Titans had no answer for the red-hot guard.
Titans’ Justin Moss (13 points, eight rebounds) finally put a lid on the Lightning’s run and dropped consecutive buckets in the paint but London’s Moon’s offensive show wasn’t over yet as he proceeded to knock down back-to-back baskets of his own.
The Titans’ win seemed to be slipping away as the clock wound down. The Lightning were right on KW’s heels and the Titans didn’t appear to have much left in the tank to stop the bleeding. Before long, London had stolen the lead from KW and the home-team was now playing with their backs against the walls.
Frustration set in for the Titans and everything seemed to be going the Lightning’s way. With less than a minute left on the clock, the Titans were down by four points as fans sat on the edge of their seats.
Scott was fouled and sent to the line for two free-throws with the Lightning leading by three points with five seconds left. Scott knocked down the first and intentionally missed the second so that his team had the opportunity to rebound the ball and tie the game up. Ellis swooped in and managed to secure the ball and make a layup, tying the score and sending the game into overtime.
Titans fans went wild and the team got a much-needed boost from their crowd as they went into extra time.
The two teams got an additional five minutes of clock to try and finish each other off. London looked to be determined not to lose this one to KW and got off to a hot start in OT. With less than two minutes left, the Lightning’s AJ Gaines (14 points, nine rebounds) got up for a rim-rattling dunk that took the air out of the building.
But the Titans weren’t prepared to give up as they continued to push the pace and got down the floor for some easy layups. London seemed to be looking to comfortable and allowed the Titans to get themselves into a position to win the game.
With the Titans down by three, Ellis pulled up for a deep triple to tie the game but left the Lightning with the final possession and the opportunity to win the game for themselves.
The Lightning inbounded the ball and passed it up the court when out of nowhere Scott dived in for a steal and darted up the floor. Scott missed the layup but Lynn was able to grab the board and got the ball to Ellis. Ellis calmly moved over to his sweet spot and danced with the ball. The clock was ticking down to its final seconds when Ellis stepped back behind the three-point line and fade back with two defenders in his face. The ball went up and up in what seemed like an eternity and then splashed through the net as the buzzer went off.
The whole arena jumped for joy and Ellis ran off the floor with his teammates chasing after him.
The Titans defeated the division-leading Lightning 113-110 at the end of OT.
Head coach Cavell Johnson had nothing but good things to say about his star player outside of the Titans’ locker room after the win.
“He’s a dog, man. He is a dog!” Johnson said. “I’ve seen that in him as a teammate when we played together and I’ve seen him tough through ailments and being hurt because he wants what’s best for the team. He wants to be able to contribute in any way he can for the team and for him to do what he did tonight, man, it was amazing.”
Ellis, himself, was feeling amazing after the game and had this to say.
“Man, it was crazy,” Ellis said. “That was probably my favourite moment of my career, hitting that shot right now and I have plenty of favourite moments.”
The Titans will look to build some momentum after this huge home victory.
KW will now head to London to take on the Lightning in their territory on Saturday before returning home on Sunday to host the Sudbury Five at The Aud.
Tip off for Saturday’s matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m.