London struck by Lightning
London Community News
By John Matisz/London Community News
In a game which featured a multitude of firsts, a strong second half made the difference for the London Lightning Thursday night (Nov. 3).
With 3,416 in attendance at the John Labatt Centre (JLC), the Forest City's entry in the newly formed National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) made an emphatic entrance, defeating the Halifax Rainmen by a score of 118-110.
Six Lightning players, including guard DeAnthony Bowden — who had a team-high 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting — reached double digits in points.
"Everybody contributes to this team," explained Bowden, who also picked up four steals, four rebounds and five assists against Halifax. "We have 12 people on this team who can contribute equally and coach is going to play us all."
London's bench boss, former National Basketball League all-star player Michael Ray Richardson, called Bowden one of the team's "undisputed leaders," adding the Bolts "stole" the game from the Rainmen following halftime.
By shooting 54 per cent from the field and pulling down 27 rebounds to Halifax's 11, London certainly did its part on both ends of the floor in the third and fourth quarters. "In the second half we played great defense," Richardson said, "we rebounded and took the ball to the hoop."
In the defeat, Halifax's 6-foot-4, 198-pound small forward Lawrence Wright put up a game-high 29 points. Leading 54-50 after two quarters, the visitors were outscored 43-25 in what was a lowly third for the Rainmen.
The Bolts' Brandon Dean, who finished with 17 total points, notched 13 in the third quarter. Him and two double-double performers — Gabe Freeman with 20 points and 11 rebounds, Tim Ellis with 14 points and 10 rebounds — built off of teammate Taylor King's 3-for-6 three-point shooting in the first half.
Dean scored the franchise's first bucket early in the opening stanza, a kick-off to an impressive first showing by the city's professional basketball club. In the dying minutes of the match, chants of "Let's Go London" erupted – affectionately welcoming Bowden and his teammates to the Forest City.
"It was a tremendous experience," said Dean, a Monroe, Louisiana, native. "Coming (into the game) not knowing what to expect, it's one of the best feelings I've had playing basketball."
Suiting up for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks from 1998-2002, the now-31-year-old is still playing basketball full-time. When asked to compare and contrast the quality of play in the NBLC to his wealth of experience, Dean noted it is somewhere in between the National Basketball Association and NCAA Division I collegiate basketball.
"I think it's definitely above college basketball," he said. "I think it's high calibre."
Another noticeably enthusiastic member of the Lightning Thursday night — albeit not an athlete — was equipment manager Dustin McKeachnie. The 22-year-old applied online to be the team's volunteer behind-the-scenes workman.
"This is my dream," McKeachnie said with intent. "I'm hoping I can do this professionally one day."
His grandmother and girlfriend were also in attendance, taking in the festivities in part because McKeachnie was involved but also due to curiosity.
"It's rather good, I like the atmosphere," said McKeachnie's grandmother Donna Dickinson, 66. "I'm surprised by the attendance."
Garnering about 1,000 people for its lone home exhibition game Oct. 23, the franchise's official home opener Thursday nearly quadrupled the trial run's attendance mark.