SAINT JOHN – The Saint John Riptide moved within 2 ½ games of Cape Breton in the standings Sunday, downing the Highlanders 111-87 in National Basketball League of Canada action at Harbour Station.
After trailing by five points early in the first quarter, the Riptide turned it on and never looked back, leading by as many 30 points against a shorthanded Highlanders squad.
“I’m just glad we didn’t take our foot of their neck and let them back in the game like we did earlier in the season,” Riptide centre T.J. Maston said post-game. “We kept the pressure on them the whole game and I think we’re growing as a team, getting better. I really like where we are heading going into the playoffs.”
With the win, the fourth-place Riptide improved to 13-18 in the Atlantic Division. Cape Breton, which has lost eight of nine, fell to 15-15, and saw its hold on third shrink.
Maston led Saint John with 23 points and 11 rebounds while Frank Bartley celebrated his 25th birthday with 17. Keme Osse added 15 while Bryce Washington tacked on 13 points and 11 boards. Brent Arrington had 10 points.
Jamal Reynolds scored 17 for the Highlanders, while former Saint John guard Olu Famutimi added 15 points.
It was not a good afternoon for another Saint John alumnus. Former Riptide guard Aaron Redpath was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct two minutes into the fourth quarter. Redpath, who was 0-9 from the field, was assessed his second technical of the game after kicking an advertising sign along the offensive baseline in frustration, thinking he’d been fouled.
The Highlanders dressed only 10 players for Sunday’s contest after its leading scorer, Bruce Massey, signed an overseas contract late last week. His departure for the Ukraine left a large hole in the Highlanders’ lineup. Massey was averaging 23.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game at the time of his departure.
The Riptide led 79-57 after three quarters, 56-31 at the half, and 21-13 after one quarter.
With nine games remaining in the regular season, coach Nelson Terroba said the focus remains getting better each time out.
“The assignment detail was great today, and the guys are really starting to understand how to play off each other, which is good to see,” Terroba said.
“I’m proud of this group. They’ve come a long way from the beginning of the year until now, and they deserve some success.”
Saint John continues an extended Harbour Station homestand on Wednesday at 7 p.m. against the second-place Halifax Hurricanes, winners of six straight at 18-12.
Friday, the 20-10 Moncton Magic come to town for a 7 p.m. tip off in a game being dubbed the Battle of New Brunswick.
The Saturday night, the Riptide will face the Kitchener-Waterloo Titans. Game time is 7 p.m.