by Kim Elliot
The Lance – Sports Intern
The Windsor Express basketball team have returned to Caesars Windsor to make history for the second time in as many years.
The local franchise of the National Basketball League of Canada steam-rolled the Halifax Rainmen Jan. 21 with a score of 95-68, during the “Clash At The Colosseum II”, in a repeat of the event established Jan. 15, 2014. They are still the only professional sports team to play in a major casino venue.
The Express achieved victory again this year while establishing a new franchise record low for points against. Their previous low for points against in a game their was 73 points.
Over 2,300 plus boisterous local fans showed from both sides of the river to cheer the Express on to their 11th straight victory on home court, where they have yet to be beaten this year. Express CEO and President, Dartis Willis said he was happy, “Clash at the Colosseum II” was as big a success as the first game a year ago.
“Not only are we happy with the outcome of the game, once again Windsor-Essex has proved to be a region that loves good basketball and great entertainment,” said Willis.
The win pushed Windsor’s current season record to 15-7 and sustained their first place status in the the Central Division, now with a two- game lead over second place London Lightning.
The defensive tone of the game resulted in a 23-14 first quarter split in favour of Windsor, which they extended to a 40-29 half-time advantage.
Express assistant coach Lex Page said the scouting report indicated Halifax was mostly a pick-and-roll team and it was a focal point at practice prior to the game.
“Although we have great scorers on our squad, we are typically a defense minded team,” said Page. “If you want to play for the Express you’ve got to show up on the [defensive] side of the ball first.”
Six Express players scored in double figures in a very balanced effort offensively, with each active player recording at least two points. Express leading scorer Quinnel Brown paced the pack with 19 points, followed by 13 points from centre, DeAndre Thomas. Kevin Loiselle, Ryan Anderson and Kirk Williams Jr. had 12 points apiece, while Tony Bennet scored 10 points. High-flying Halifax forward Kevin Young topped all scorers with 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Pedro Foster scored 14 points. The two were the only Rainmen to tally double figures in the game.
Windsor power forward Loiselle, the franchise’s leader in games played, was named player of the game. Loiselle said other than trying to stop Young in the paint, the Express mainly concentrated on trapping Halifax’s guards and controlling the gaps between everybody else.
“Overall it was great to be playing in the Colosseum again,” said Loiselle. “Even though we missed having the theatrics of Darren Duncan and Stefan Bonneau, the crowd seem to really get into the game.”
Express guard Bennett played at Caesar’s Windsor in 2014 as a member of the London Lightning but embraced his role in the game with starters Chris Commons and Windsor native, Gary Gibson out with injuries.
“It’s nicer to be on the winning side this time around, said Bennett. “Even though I wouldn’t say this was Halifax’s best effort, I would say it was more about our defence than their lack of offense.”
The Express are now 16-7 after traveling to the Hershey Centre Jan. 24, where they knocked off the Mississauga Power, 106-94. Windsor was led by Ryan Anderson’s 27 point, 10 rebound double-double. Bennett missed that game as he joined forward Commons and guard Gibson on the injured reserve list.
The Express are back in action against the Power at the WFCU Centre Jan.31 where they will tip-off at 7pm.