NBLC Upstart Sudbury Five Spoils Windsor Express Home Opener
By Don James
The atmosphere at WFCU Centre in Windsor was electrifying, as the two-time National Champions Windsor Express opened the 2018 -2019 season against the Sudbury Five, the National Basketball League of Canada’s newest team. Both the Express and their fans expected a victory to kick off the new season with a bang.
Yet, when the final horn sounded in the fourth quarter of Saturday, November 17’s Home Opener, it was the Sudbury Five, who was electrically celebrating what many thought was a mission impossible game for them to win…as an expansion team…on the road…with a rookie coach. However, it was mission possible, as Sudbury stopped the Express with an impressive win: Final score, Sudbury Five 126, Windsor Express 123.
The Express, now in their seventh season, played very well for long stretches of time. At half-time, the Express led 69 to 49. However, to Sudbury’s credit, they kept coming in the second half. Leading the comeback was guard, Jaylen Bland, who pumped in 43 points, and connected on 11 of 19 shots from three-point-land.
Offensively, the Express was led by sharp-shooting guard Ryan Anderson, whose 30 points featured some impressive three-point shooting. Joining Anderson offensively was Horace Wormely, a quick, hard-to-cover point guard in his first season with the Express. Wormely netted 26 points and handed out 12 assists. Other Express players in double figures were forward Juan Pattillo (18), forward Richard Amardi (18), center Deandre Thomas (14), and guard Reggie Hamilton (11).
With 1:20 to play in the game, with the score knotted at 119, it was anybody’s game. Sudbury, despite missing two critical free throws at crunch time, outscored the Express 7 to 4 to close out the game with the victory. The outcome of the game could have been tilted in favor of the Express if they could have secured a defensive rebound, after a Sudbury’s player missed the second free throw in the closing seconds. Instead, Sudbury grabbed the offensive rebound, which ultimately sealed the deal in favor of the visiting expansion team.
Much to the disappointment of the Express Head Coach Bill Jones, his team was mauled on the boards all night, with Sudbury hauling down 55 rebounds, 16 offensively. The Express totaled 39 rebounds, nine on the offensive glass. Winning the rebounding battle on both the offensive and defensive glass was one of the areas that Jones brought to the attention of his players after the game.
“We are very tough,” Jones told his players in the locker room, with team owner, president and CEO, Dartis Willis looking on. “But we have to do a much better job of defending, blocking out and rebounding. And we have to play through the calls made on the floor. We will get better!”
Speaking of head coaches, Sudbury’s Logan Stutz was ecstatic with his team’s victory. Express fans gave him a loud cheer before the game, as they remembered him as the power forward who played for the Express, under Jones, for the past two seasons. Stutz, a former NBLC Player of the Year, retired to become Sudbury’s new general manager and head coach.
The win for Stutz, in many ways, was a classic example of the mentee turning the table on his mentor. In what may become a stepped up game of basketball chess and strategic maneuvering between the two coaches in future meetings, Stutz perhaps upped the ante with his quote in the Sudbury Star newspaper.
“I kind of know how he (Jones) does it,” the first-year head coach said, referring to winning games. “I learned a lot from him and I used what he taught me tonight, and it worked.”
Coach Jones and the Express will have their chance at revenge, when they face Sudbury again on November 28 at WFCU Centre. First, however, the Express will play two other November games: St. John’s Edge (Nov. 21) at WFCU Centre and KW Titans (Nov. 22) on the road.
With game one in the rearview mirror, the Express, by all accounts, are moving forward. With a potent offense to either run and gun, or play an effective half-court offense, the team is equipped to win. However, they must improve defensively, and impose their will to own the glass.
It’s a long season and Express fans should have a lot to cheer about, as their team roars through the 2018 -2019 season in search of another National Championship. Even with the Opening Night home misstep, for the Express, it’s still all aboard…and full steam ahead!
Photos by Kevin Jarrold – In Play! magazine
Windsor Express Season Schedule
WFCU Centre Seating Chart