It was a Cinderella finish for the underdog Saskatchewan Rattlers on the weekend as they captured the inaugural title of the Canadian Elite Basketball League.
The Rattlers won the first CEBL Championship Weekend in Saskatoon, defeating the Edmonton Stingers on Saturday and then the Hamilton Honey Badgers 94-83 on Sunday to capture the title. The Honey Badgers had toppled the top-ranked Niagara River Lions 104-103 Saturday to make it into the final game.
For the Rattlers, it was a storybook finish following an 11-9 regular season. Rattlers captain Alex Campbell was named CEBL Championship Weekend MVP.
The title game was also the farewell for retiring guard Michael Linklater, who also won a championship with the Saskatchewan Huskies under current Rattlers coach and head coach Greg Jockims.
The final game capped several days of basketball and related events surrounding CEBL Championship Weekend. The festivities included outdoor concerts and 3-on-3 basketball downtown.
Attendance was 3,119 at SaskTel Centre for the final on Sunday.
For Saskatoon it is their first pro basketball title in 26 years, when the Saskatoon Slam won the crown in the former National Basketball League.
For Rattlers team president Lee Genier it is yet another first-year title for him in Saskatoon, after winning a National Lacrosse League title during the inaugural season of the Saskatchewan Rush in 2016.
“We saw a tremendous game today," said league commissioner and CEO Mike Morreale Sunday. Morreale voiced his optimism about the future of the league.
“I will continue to raise the bar for this product and for this game because I think that it’s important that we do so, that we support basketball at all levels. It will take time. But we will ride this wave, we will enjoy it (Championship Weekend), we will continue to invest in this product and in this league."