It was a game in which both teams fought hard as the score was close through much of the contest. It took a late game surge by the Charge to put the game away as they scored their first victory in the best of three NBA D-League Playoff series. The game took place in front of 2,875 screaming fans, many who were decked out in gold “3rd Times The Charge” T-Shirts” at the Canton Memorial Civic Center. The teams will now travel to Sioux Falls for Game 2 on Saturday.
It was the battle of the behemoths for the entire first half as Canton’s Shane Edwards (18 points) and Arinze Onuaku (9 points) as the Charge went into the half with a slim 50-48 lead. Craig Smith was good for 18 points for Sioux Falls before the half as the teams kept trading the lead back and forth five times with seven ties changes after shooting just over 50%.
The tension in the arena was further ramped up in the third quarter as neither team could get a handle on the game as the fans were treated to five more ties and three lead changes. With the top two scoring defenses battling it out on the court the teams faced the fourth quarter locked in at 69 all.
With 10:24 left in the game, Canton hit a brief 9-2 run in just 2:01 that included help off the bench from Re’mon Nelson who was good for six as well as superb defense giving the Charge a 81-74 advantage. It was not over yet as Sioux Falls countered with a 7-1 run of their own as they pulled within one.
With 4:44 left to play and the slimmest of one point leads, Canton then fired off a perfect 12-0 series as the fans grew louder with each basket. In just 2:21 they managed to take the biggest lead of the contest at 94-81.
The Charge then locked down the far end of the court as Sioux Falls missed seven of their final eight shots as they trailed by double digits for the remainder of the game. As a team, Canton made good on 12-of-14 attempts in the fourth for 86% as they raise their all-time home court playoff mark to 4-1.
Edwards finished with a game-high 29 points on 14-of-19 shooting, eight rebounds and a steal in 35 minutes for Canton. Onuaku was punishing in the middle with 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting and a franchise playoff record 19 boards in 34 minutes. The Cleveland Cavaliers’ Scotty Hopson came off the bench to add 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting in 32 minutes, while fellow assignment Sergey Karasev added four points, seven rebounds and five assists in 24 minutes. Will Cherry netted 11 points with nine assists and three steals in 35 minutes.
Smith finished with 24 points on 11-of-19 shooting and two steals in 33 minutes to lead Sioux Falls. Tre Kelley netted 15 points on 7-of-14 shooting with four assists in 41 minutes. DeAndre Liggins netted 10 points with five rebounds and five steals in 41 minutes. The Skyforce finished the regular season at second in the league in opponent turnovers, which was reflected in the 24 miscues they forced from the Charge resulting in 29 points while surrendering the ball just nine times for 15 points.
HEAD COACH STEVE HETZEL
(On tonight’s game):“I thought it was a battle. The one thing I was very unhappy with, obviously, was the turnovers. We’ve preached it all week… we knew how good they were at forcing turnovers. They’re second in the league defensively and we turned it over 24 times. When you do that, normally you walk away with a loss. I’m just happy that we defended so well in the second-half, with twenty points in the third quarter and seventeen in the fourth. That’s how you close out a game, but we can’t feel good about ourselves. We have got to go get a win on the road.”
(On the importance of a Game 1 win):“It’s huge in any playoff series just to gain momentum, but especially in this league where you’re only awarded on home game if you’re a lower seed. Then you have got to go get a road win. They have a similar record at home as us… they’re very effective. So, we have to buckle down and we have to play some of our best basketball.”
F SHANE EDWARDS
(On tonight’s game):“We knew that we had to come out with great energy and we knew we had to punch first. I think our guys did a great job of going at it and we took care of business. We did what we had to do and now it’s time to move on to the next game.”
(On how they were able to change the momentum in the fourth quarter):“(By) getting stops and locking down on defense. In the last five minutes of the fourth quarter, you have got to get stops. That’s what we did. Our team did a great job of doing that and we pulled it out.”
Game 2 will be at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls on Saturday, April 12 at 8:00 p.m.
The 2014 Canton Charge Playoffs are presented by Aultman/AultCare, The Repository and FirstEnergy Solutions.
For tickets, game day promotions and links to live stats and YouTube game streams, head toCantonCharge.com.
Fans can get in the conversation throughout the team’s 2014 postseason run by using #3rdTimestheCharge.