The Montreal Jazz put on a dazzling show for 1,500 fans that fell just short of a victory in their home opener.
The defending NBLC champion London Lightning beat the Jazz 79-76 in an exciting, tightly-contested game that gets Montreal's newest pro franchise off on a strong footing.
Former LaSalle Catholic and Sun Youth star Sheray Thomas led all scorers with 20 points, along with eight rebounds, and scored a bucket with 54 seconds left to draw his team within three points.
But two late turnovers were particularly costly for the Jazz, the latter being a Lightning steal off of Juan Mendez that sealed the deal for the champs, who moved to 5-0 in the Central Conference.
The Jazz (0-4) boast a strong front line that includes Sani Ibrahim, formerly one of American's top high school players and a familiar face to Montreal fans as a former member of the Matrix.
Ibrahim dissected the Lightning with an array of Olajuwon-style post moves, finishing with 12 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Former Kebs and D-Leauge player Louis-Patrick Levros had a highlight-reel dunk in traffic in the first half, bringing the crowd to its feet.
The 6-6 forward, a Laval native who attended high school in Rhode Island, plays with tremendous energy and is sure to be the glue guy for this team.
Just before tip-off, the 29-year-old took the mic at centre court and addressed the crowd at Centre Pierre-Charbonneau.
"Thanks for coming out," said Levros. "Please make sure to come for our next game and support us."
The Jazz frontcourt battalion is rounded out by Terry Licorish, a former James Lyng H.S. star who was one of the top bigs in all of North America in the early 2000s before a heart ailment cut short his career at Mississippi State.
The long-armed, 6'9" jump shooter chipped in 12 points for the Jazz.
In the backcourt, Montreal's basketball mainstays, Buckley brothers Damian and Dwayne, bring their usual passion and experience to the proceedings.
While Dwayne didn't play in the opener, Damian had a game-high nine assists while another familiar face, Manix Auriantal, had eight points, four boards and four assists before fouling out.
The Jazz will have to figure out the Lightning's lightning-quick guards if they hope to break into the win column against London, who they have to play five more times this season.
They can gain solace from the fact that the 79-76 loss was their closest game of the young season, and also a huge improvement from their first game against the Lightning, which they lost 134-86.
Jazz General Manager Pascal Jobin, looking sharp in a grey suit, beamed with pride as he watched another professional venture tip off in Montreal.
He's staking the future of the franchise on homegrown players, as well as a renewed interest in the game on the part of the French media.
RDS and TVA Sports were at the game, while CTV, The Gazette, and Global were nowhere to be seen.
That's actually not a problem, since it's the French media that will decide the ultimate success of the Jazz in Quebec.
The NBLC is still searching for a television deal, and TVA Sports seems a good fit for the up-and-coming team. NBA on TVA play-by-play man Paul Rivard was courtside for the game, which was a good sign.
Make sure to come out for the next home game on Sunday, November 25 when the Jazz take on the Moncton Miracles.

Post date - November 19, 2012


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