By Ian Shalapata
(WINDSOR, ON) – The Windsor Express played out their final two games of the regular season Friday and Saturday evenings, and treated the home-town fans by extending their winning streak to seven games with wins over Saint John and Oshawa.
On Friday, the Mill Rats showed some promise, but ended up on the bottom end of a 104-95 result to the Express. Windsor led all the way into the 3rd quarter until Saint John mounted a comeback that saw them lead by as much as three points. But Bill Jones proved his basketball savvy again, and coached the team back into the lead for good. The league recognized Jones’ importance by naming him the Coach of the Month for March.
The closeness of the game was foreshadowed when the first two points were netted by Greg Surmacz from the foul line. Windsor’s 6’ 8” forward lead the team with his seventh double-double on the season scoring 12 points and 12 rebounds (11 defensive), as well as making two steals.
Not to be outdone, Kevin Loiselle registered his 13th double-double by bringing down 10 rebounds and dropping 17 points. Loiselle and Surmacz were a big part of the number 1 ranked Express defence that led the NBL of Canada, only giving up 96.9 points per game.
Darren Duncan and Mike Helms both sunk 18 points and Stefan Bonneau chipped in 15 off the bench including going 6 for 6 from the line.
The win over Saint John clinched third place overall for the Express, guaranteeing them a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
It was also the 6th win in a row for the team heading into the final game of the regular season against Oshawa on Saturday night. The visiting Power, at one time, rested comfortably in second place in the Central Conference. However, they finished the season with 10 straight losses, and out of the playoffs, including a 98-88 defeat at the hands of Windsor on the final night of the season.
The regular bench for Windsor was called upon more often Saturday as Bill Jones got them some work before heading into an off week. Daniel Rose and AJ Johnson both hit double digits with 14 and 12 points respectively. Johnson also corralled 9 rebounds and dished 9 assists in just 29 minutes.
Helms led all Windsor scorers with 18 points while Loiselle completed his 14th double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
With the win, Windsor capped a 7 game win streak, going 12 and 2 in their last 14 games. Looking forward, the Express will now prepare to meet Summerside in the semi-finals while London waits to play the winner of the Moncton-Saint John best-of-three wildcard series.
Windsor will travel to PEI for games on the 24th and 26th of March before returning home to host the Storm on the 28th. Games are also scheduled for 30 March (at home) and 2 April (away), if necessary.