It may seem a little surprising that a basketball team in its inaugural year would be sitting one game away from winning the league championship.
But for the Halifax Hurricanes of the National Basketball League of Canada, and its coach Hugo López, only one thing matters at this point following their 99-98 win last night against the London Lightning and a commanding 3-1 lead in the final series.
“We believe in ourselves,” said López.
The game itself was a tight affair from tip-off to final buzzer, with neither team taking more than a seven point lead and the scoring lead changing hands 16 times throughout the night.
“Any team could have won that game, you know what I’m saying?” said Lopez.
And at the end it all came down to four free throws: two by London’s Akeen Scott to put the Lightning ahead 98-97 with four seconds remaining and two by Halifax’s Mike Glover to seal the win with 2.2 seconds left in the game.
“We fought really hard to get this game even though we were behind four or five points,” said Lopez. “We got the last ball and we ran a good (inbounds) play. We found Michael Glover close to the basket and they fouled him.”
Glover was the big man on the court taking nine of his team’s 51 rebounds, but struggled from the charity stripe going only 9 of 14.
“He wasn’t having a good night from the free throw line, but he made the last two and that’s when it counts,” said Lopez.
London’s Akeem Scott once again was the force to be reckoned with from the Lightning side scoring 26 points and working the court for a team leading 35 minutes of play.
The position the Hurricanes are in is not only a testament to the team’s strength – especially considering how the Halifax Rainmen squad from last year was decimated following fines, suspensions, firings and bankruptcy after the brawl prior to the championship Game 7 – but is also an indication of the strength of the league as a whole.
League commissioner David Magley has taken his vision of what a successful basketball league can be, and parlayed that through countless combines, tireless travel, and amazing accessibility into a league that has strong ownership and a wealth of skilled basketball players.
Halifax can win the championship with their skilled players Friday night as the two teams play Game 5 back in London’s home court Budweiser Gardens.