By Marty Thompson and Chris Croucher
On Sunday afternoon, the London Lightning took on the Orangeville A’s in their final game of the regular season. The Bolts didn’t need the win, as their playoff position was set in stone, leaving many expecting London to rest their starters in preparation for the upcoming NBLC Playoffs.
Instead, the 7,409 fans that packed Budweiser Gardens got a heck of a show, with the London Lightning tearing through the A’s defence for a 126-107 victory. Every single healthy Bolt touched the floor, and seven different players scored in double figures.
It was a fitting end to a season that has gone down as the most successful regular season in NBLC history, with the players and the team leaving their marks in both the franchise and league record books. Here are the highlights of a record-breaking season:
The Lightning’s win streak is what really made them the contender they are heading into the 2016/17 playoffs. A shaky 4-3 start was seemingly forgotten by mid-January when the Bolts grabbed two wins each against difficult Central Division opponents in the KW Titans and Windsor Express. The streak survived back-to-back games against the defending champ Halifax Hurricanes and an east coast road trip but eventually came to an end in an 114-93 loss to the Windsor Express, who held the previous record of 12 set in 2013-14.
It looked far too easy for Royce White all season long. All of the talk around the former NBA first-round pick ended over a cold weekend in early January, when White posted back-to-back triple-doubles during a home-and-home series with the KW Titans. That put him within one of tying Cedric Moodie and Trayvon Lathan’s record of three — all while only seven games into his NBLC career. He ended up passing them on his way to a blistering four triple-doubles in one season.
Offense came so natural to the Bolts this season that this stat really isn’t surprising, regardless of how incredible it is. Teams simply couldn’t keep up with London’s ball movement this season (26apg, 1st in NBLC) and that led to incredible scores. London ended up shattering the old record: 109.3ppg, which was set by last year’s edition of the Lightning.
Halfway through London’s record 14-game win streak, it was apparent that the Lightning were onto something special. Head Coach Kyle Julius kept the intensity up throughout the season and, after all was said and done, they had statistics to back up the “best NBLC team ever” tag that has surrounded this team. Their 35 wins, 19 home wins, 16 away wins, and an 86.7% win percentage are all NBLC records.
The London Lightning made quick work of the Moncton Miracles on Feb. 4, 2017, led by Kyle Johnson’s 51 points. The previous record had been held since London’s inaugural season by Eddie Smith, who notched a 40-point game. Honorable mention goes to Ryan Anderson, who also beat the mark with a 45-point game this season.
Herring Jr. easily goes down as one of the best distributors in Lightning history. Heading into the season, the previous team record had been 12 assists, a mark shared by DeAnthony Bowden and Nick Okorie. Herring Jr. blew it out of the water, not once, but twice, as prior to his record breaking night on Feb. 26, he had a 15-assist game earlier in the month.
After writing his name all over the single-game list, it should come as no surprise that Herring Jr. ended the year with the highest assists per game of any player in Lightning history. It was a fairly recent record, having been set by Akeem Scott in 2015-16.
White is the engine that drives the Lightning, with his lethal mix of scoring and playmaking. Alongside leading the Bolts in scoring, White set the franchise record for assists in a season, breaking a record held by Adrian Moss since the 2012-13 season.
Poor Adrian Moss saw another one of his franchise records tumble, this time with Anderson breaking the steals mark set in 2012-13. Anderson committed larceny on several opponents this year, even flirting with the league record for steals in a game at times.
The 2017 NBLC Playoffs will kick-off on Thursday when the Orangeville A’s visit the Lightning for Game 1 of their Central Division Semi-Final.