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CEBL Takeaways: Scarborough Shooting Stars showcase depth in home opener

A photo of the court at Toronto Pan Am Sports centre in Scarborough ahead of the start of a game. Fans fill the bleachers
(Eli Silverstone/INTERMISSION SPORTS)

BY ELI SILVERSTONE


The Scarborough Shooting Stars defeated the Niagara River Lions 95-87 in their home opener at the Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre on Saturday night. 


After three games on the road to start the year, the reigning Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) champion Shooting Stars returned home for the big win, bringing their record to 2-2. 


Scarborough held and controlled a 10-point lead for most of the night. At halftime, the Shooting Stars led 55-47. Niagara closed the gap to 72-70 at the end of the third quarter but the Shooting Stars responded well and held an 86-78 lead going into target time. It got close towards the end but guard Tevian Jones finished it off with a game-winning three.


Here are four takeaways from the homecoming win.


Scarborough shows out for home debut

After going to the finals in their inaugural season and winning the championship in their second, Scarborough has implemented a winning culture. The 2023 championship banner was raised and fans paraded through the stadium proudly wearing their Shooting Stars championship merch. 


“There’s always pressure being the best team because everybody’s got a target on our backs, but really, that helps us at the end of the day,” said Scarborough forward Jackson Rowe after the game.


Drake and his close friend and president of the Shooting Stars, Niko Corvino, cheered along. It was another sell-out, just like every other Shooting Stars game since they became a franchise.


“The energy here is great… I think we are having the time of our lives.” said starting point guard Kadre Gray. 


The Kadre Gray and Cat Barber backcourt may be the best in the CEBL this year 

The CEBL’s all-time leading scorer, Cat Barber, is still finishing his season overseas in Portugal but will return to Scarborough soon. In the meantime, 2023 CEBL Canadian Player of the Year Kadre Gray is running the show from the point guard position. So far, the 6’1 playmaker is excelling in the role. On Saturday, he dropped 18 points, 10 assists, and just one turnover. 


When asked about playing with Barber, Gray, who came over from the Ottawa BlackJacks this offseason, laughed.


“I’m looking forward to him not blowing by me anymore, blowing by some other guy now. It’s going to be very cool,” he said 


 Gray has had an instant impact as a playmaker. He leads the Shooting Stars in assists with 9.8, second in the entire CEBL. 


“I’m constantly looking for our bigs and shooters, just trying to make the right read every time,” said Gray.


Rebounding is key for the Shooting Stars

Despite the feel-good win, Scarborough isn’t satisfied with their 2-2 record this year. When asked what the Shooting Stars need to do better, new head coach Devin Blair didn’t hesitate to bring up rebounding.

 

“We get killed on the offensive glass sometimes,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that frankly, just need to hit harder.”


The eventual return of Kalif Young, a member of last year's championship team, should help. The 6’9 forward averaged almost eight rebounds a game last year and should make his return to the lineup for Scarborough’s in their next game on Sunday, June 9.


In the meantime, Rowe grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds for Scarborough on Saturday. Rowe leads Scarborough in points (16.8), rebounds (9.8), and steals per game (1.8) so far.


“He’s just a mismatch out there… we go as he goes,” said Blair.  


Devan Blair is running a deep rotation with new talent

With only three returning players and a new coach, Scarborough is still searching for the right player combinations and rotations. This led to Blair running a deep rotation, with 10 players scoring over five points in the win.


“As long as the team as a whole knows what we are trying to do offensively and defensively, I feel very confident. Anyone on any night can come in and play a huge role” he said.


With Barber and Young set to return soon, the rotation might change. Nevertheless, Scarborough’s deep roster appears ready to make another championship push in 2024.


NEXT: The Scarborough Shooting Stars take on the Brampton Honey Badgers on Sunday, June 9, 2024, at the CAA Center. Stay tuned for more from Intermission Sports.



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