Staff Writer, Cameron Burgess - August 29, 2019
The Guelph Nighthawks season was filled with ups and downs, but there were plenty of positives to take away from the franchise’s first season and the inaugural CEBL season as a whole
The first win in franchise history came in the first game of the season. Guelph was on the road to face the Fraser Valley Bandits and came away with a 106-103 victory. The Nighthawks returned home for their first game at the Sleeman Centre the following weekend as they faced the Saskatchewan Rattlers. The Nighthawks lost the game 130-110, but the team received a warm ovation from the hometown fans at the end of the game.
The Nighthawks won their first home game the following weekend with a 95-94 win over Fraser Valley. Not only did the team manage to pull off the narrow victory, but they did so by overcoming a 24-point deficit in the second half. With a 2-1 record, it appeared to be a promising season ahead for Guelph. However, that win was followed up by a challenging five-game losing streak. The Nighthawks snapped that streak with their third win of the season, once again defeating the Bandits, but lost to Hamilton the following week.
With a 3-7 record through the first half of the season, the Nighthawks began to shake things up. On July 1, the team announced that they had parted ways with head coach Tarry Upshaw. The following week it was announced that Charles Kissi would be taking over as head coach and general manager of the Nighthawks. Kissi had spent time as head coach of the Brock Badgers before moving on to become an assistant coach with the Raptors 905.
Following his arrival, Kissi began to make changes to the roster. Kimbal Mackenzie was the first player to be signed, taking over at starting point guard. Right away he became a leader on the court for the Nighthawks, leading the team with 21 points per game. The Nighthawks also signed Tyrell Corbin and Michale Kyser in July, before the final addition of Johneil Simpson joined the team. Corbin added depth to the Nighthawks, averaging 11.3 points per game while coming off of the bench, while Kyser led the team with 6.2 rebounds per game.
With a new coach, some new players and the season coming down to the final stretch, there was a sense of optimism around the Nighthawks. Kissi’s first win came in his second game with the team in a decisive 93-75 victory over the Saskatchewan Rattlers. Nighthawks guard and Guelph-native Connor Wood set a CEBL record with nine three-pointers made in the game, finishing with 29 points.
After splitting a home-and-home series with the Niagara River Lions, the Nighthawks playoff hopes were still alive with three games left in the season. However, those hopes were put to rest after back-to-back losses to the Hamilton Honey Badgers. After losing their final home game of the season, the Nighthawks fans gave their team yet another ovation. It may not have been a successful season on the court, but off the court the Nighthawks have been making their mark on the community.
Despite missing out on Championship Weekend, the Nighthawks were still able to end their season on a positive note. The won their final game of the season 125-115 against the Rattlers to finish the season with a 6-14 record.
As one of the few players to have been with the Nighthawks from the beginning, Olu Famutimi played a huge role on the court for Guelph and was named the team’s Most Valuable Player. Famutimi finished the season averaging 15.1 points, 2.4 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game. He also led the team with 54 three-pointers made this season.
Despite not always getting the results they wanted on the court, the Nighthawks always provided an excellent fan experience to those in attendance. The pre-game parties inside Old Quebec Street Mall had something for everybody. Younger fans could show off their skills at the inflatable basketball court or get their face painted. The parties also featured a chance to meet with some Nighthawks players and get an autograph or two, and with a DJ there to keep the energy high it was a great way to get excited for the game.
There was also always something going on during the games to add to the entertainment. The Kids Zone provided some entertainment for younger fans, DJ Penny kept the music going all game long, and fans could get their own Nighthawks merchandise at the courtside tent. All of that in addition to the on-court activities, entertaining halftime shows and giveaways throughout the game created a fun atmosphere for fans of all ages.
Overall, the Guelph Nighthawks have created a strong foundation to build upon in the years to come.
- 30 -