River Lions report submitted by Stephen Dyell, ThoroldNews:

The River Lions defeated the Fraser Valley Bandits 80-71 Saturday night in St. Catharines. Over 2,000 fans were in attendance to witness Niagara remain undefeated inside the Meridian Centre. It’s a number that continues to grow as River Lions basketball takes over the region.

“It’s amazing to see how the River Lions have grown since their inaugural season in 2016,” Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) play-by-play announcer Zach Dadson said.

Dadson began calling River Lions games during their inaugural season in the National Basketball League of Canada and witnessed the significant growth of the fanbase and the franchise.

“From camps and school visits, to participation in events and parades, and to fundraising to support local organizations, the River Lions have has an impact on almost everyone in Niagara.”

Gabriella Illic attended her first River Lions game Saturday night and said basketball fever has taken over the city.  “The [Toronto] Raptors were everything anyone wanted to talk about. Friends who had never watched a game in their lives are now attending Canadian Elite Basketball League games because they’ve fallen in love with the sport.”

The Raptors effect has been huge for the team. Many who didn’t follow the sport were glued to their televisions throughout June watching NBA playoff basketball. The leagues’ transition to summer basketball worked out perfectly for the River Lions as fans continue to be spoiled with winning basketball. River Lions sit atop the CEBL standings with a 12-3 record.

Samuel Muldrow blocked a season-high eight shots and remains the league leader in that statistic. Guillaume Payen-Boucard led the way with 20 points and 11 rebounds for the River Lions. 

Jelan Kendrick finished with 17 points and four steals for the Bandits. Ryan Wright, a 6-foot-9 forward who was drafted by Niagara in March, made his debut Saturday night.

The River Lions will be back home Friday night game against the Edmonton Stingers before a quick turnaround in Guelph Saturday evening. Both games begin at 7 p.m.

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