Rattlers face Honey Badgers in CEBL championship rematch

Today is crunch time for Saskatchewan and Summer Series

The defending CEBL Champion Saskatchewan Rattlers face the team they defeated in the inaugural season title game, the Hamilton Honey Badgers, today at 5 p.m. ET (3 PT MT). They’ll be looking to potentially end Hamilton’s season once again as this will be the final game of the round robin portion of the CEBL Summer Seriesfor the Honey Badgers, whose 2-3 record has them on the bubble to finish seventh and be the lone team that won’t advance into the playoff bracket that begins Thursday.
 
A Hamilton victory over the Rattlers (1-3) secures them a spot in the playoffs. If the Honey Badgers come up short, they must rely on Ottawa to defeat Niagara in the second game of tonight’s doubleheader to avoid being the team sent home before the playoffs commence. Ottawa and Niagara both defeated Hamilton during the round robin, giving them the advantage over Hamilton in a tie-breaker scenario.
 
Following a strong 102-96 victory over Fraser Valley on Saturday, Hamilton showed little life in falling to Ottawa, 85-69, on Sunday afternoon. The BlackJacks jumped out to a 12-0 lead and maintained command throughout the contest, leading by as much as 44-17 in the second quarter. Hamilton shot only .333 from the field and forced just 17 Ottawa turnovers, garnering only 13 points—typically a rich source of production for the defensive-minded Honey Badgers. Hamilton was outrebounded 49-38. 
 
The Honey Badgers followed their first two losses of the Series with impressive victories where they controlled each game throughout. Conversely, after both wins, Hamilton has come out flat the next game, dug deep holes in the first quarter, and spent the remainder of the evening trying without success to catch up.
 
Saskatchewan is coming off consecutive losses to Guelph, 87-71, on Friday and Edmonton, 88-66, on Saturday, continuing a pattern that started midway through their previous game, an 87-77 loss to Fraser Valley. Against the Bandits, the Rattlers were outscored 49-28 in the second half and since then they haven’t looked like the same team that manhandled Niagara, 96-79, in their first CEBL Summer Seriesopener.           
 
The banged-up Rattlers have shot just .412 from the field and forced only 17 turnovers a game during their three-game losing streak. They’ve averaged only 27 points during the second half of those three games, in part because go-to threats Negus Webster-Chan and Kris Joseph have been nursing minor injuries. Webster-Chan missed the Edmonton game, while Joseph played only 14 minutes, though he made the most of them by contributing 12 points.
 
Tuesday’s game will be livestreamed on the CBC Gem app, online at cbcsports.ca, and on Twitch (CEBLeague). Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. ET (3 p.m. CT). 
            
Players to Watch
It’s been different players each game highlighting the Honey Badgers box scores. No Hamilton player averages more than 26 minutes per game, and six average more than 20 minutes. Newcomer Caleb Agada has recorded 16 points in both of his first two games in the pinstripes despite not having any opportunity to practice with his new team after joining 90 minutes prior to Saturday’s victory over Fraser Valley to replace the injured Duane Notice. Jaylan Babb-Harrison erupted for 18 of Hamilton’s 69 points in Sunday’s loss to Ottawa. Owen Klassen, who has taken over as team captain following the loss of Notice, posted 16 points and eight rebounds in 19 minutes versus Ottawa on Sunday. Brianté Weber’s 12.2 points a game is second on the Hamilton scoring roster behind Agada. The defensive wizard ranks first among active tournament leaders in steals with a 2.4 per game average.
 
Despite missing Saturday’s game with a sore shoulder, Negus Webster-Chan has done much of the heavy lifting for the Saskatchewan franchise during their two years in the league. In the CEBL Summer Series, he is averaging 12.3 points on the strength of 52.1 percent shooting from the field, including hitting 11 of 19 attempts from 3-point distance. Workhorse Kevin Bracy-Davis plays 34.4 minutes played and leads the Rattlers in scoring with 15.0 points a game, just ahead of Kenny Osse’s mark of 14.0. Shane Osayande is chairman of the boards with a 7.5 rebounding average to go along with his 5.8 scoring mark in four games. Jelane Pryce is contributing 2.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and his usual strong defense in 14.2 minutes of court time in four outings despite being hampered by a lower body injury. 
 
Saskatchewan’s Rashawn Browne has caught the eye of a lot of CEBL Summer Series observers. The six-foot-one point guard from Toronto is a U Sports Development Player out of the University of Manitoba. He played one year at New Mexico State and another at California University of Pennsylvania before moving on to Manitoba for the past three seasons. Through four games Browne is averaging 10.5 points, 3.8 assist and 23.4 minutes for the Rattlers.

 2019 CEBL Championship Game
Alex Campbell scored a team-high 20 points to lead Saskatchewan to a 94-83 victory over Hamilton in the inaugural championship game, played on the Rattlers homecourt on August 24, 2019. Campbell was named playoff MVP. The hometown club owned a 48-41 lead at halftime, but Hamilton opened the third frame with a 9-2 run that knotted the score at 50. The Rattlers went on a run of their own and led 62-53. The Honey Badgers could draw no closer than eight points midway through the fourth quarter.
 
Three Rattlers from that game are wearing the Saskatchewan green uniform today--Negus Webster-Chan, Jelane Pryce and Shane Osayande. No players who suited up for Hamilton in that contest are with the team in 2020. Assistant head coach Chantal Vallée served as Hamilton head coach last season, and assistant coach Will Rooney has returned in his same capacity for the Honey Badgers.
 
Next Up
Saskatchewan takes on the Ottawa BlackJacks in the final round robin game of the CEBL Summer Series tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. ET (5:30 p.m. CT). The game potentially has all kinds of implications for the playoffs as four teams are battling to the wire for the final four positions in the playoff bracket, with the Rattlers and BlackJacks being two of them.
 
A victory in this game ensures that Hamilton will advance to Thursday’s quarterfinals of the Series against an opponent to be determined after the games of Wednesday. A loss puts their fate in the hands of the Ottawa BlackJacks (2-2), who must defeat the host Niagara River Lions (1-4) later tonight to extend the Honey Badgers season.

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