By Ian Shalapata
(WINDSOR, ON) – The do-or-die writing is on the wall for the Windsor Express. After losing two of three to the Summerside Storm, including a 112-84 drubbing Thursday evening in the first NBL Canada playoff game ever in Windsor, their backs are against it. Facing elimination in game four tonight, the Express have proven they can play with any team in this league. The Express know they can defeat the Storm having won in game one in Summerside. The Express just needs to execute Bill Jones’ game plan, stay calm, and do what they did over the last 14 games of the regular season; win.
Thursday evening, when the Express were connecting , the Storm couldn’t prevent Windsor from soring at will. Leading through the first quarter, the Express looked to be on their way. But the Storm adjusted and started forcing errors; missed passes, missed shots, and missed assignments. The team can’t use the excuse of poor officiating (although it was questionable at times), it was more a matter of frustration.
More so, the Express is such a tightly-knit group that the realization that they were letting down their teammates had more to do with the loss than anything that Summerside did.
There is no doubt about the leadership Darren Duncan brings to the court for Windsor. Thursday Duncan lead a rough and tumble offense with a double-double (14 pts – 11 assists) after scoring the team’s first ever triple-double in the first meeting of the series. Duncan is a true leader who has the ability to get his teammates back on track.
There is no doubt of the consistency of play from Greg Surmacz. Also with a double-double on Thursday (10 pts – 12 rebounds), Surmacz can provide the defensive skills needed to shutdown the Summerside offense.
Such an emotional player, it was evident that Chris Commons felt the heat Thursday committing five fouls. Knowing that the team has his back, Commons should be able to rebound with a better showing tonight. In the past he has shown spectacular ability, but with the talent surrounding him, Commons doesn’t need to be a one man show. Taking some of the pressure off will allow the quiet giant to re-find his comfort zone.
The Coach-of-the-Month, Bill Jones, is a master of getting the best out of his players. His coaching staff all have their eyes on different aspects of the game that allows Jones to quickly react to changes in play. He can’t however, prevent the frustration aspect from setting in. Jones does have a competent bench who have stepped up every time they have been called upon. He has one of the strongest benches available to any coach and shouldn’t hold back from unleashing the likes of Stefan Bonneau, Eric Parker, AJ Johnson, or Daniel Rose. They have been solid all season.
One worrying aspect is the lower arm injury to Kevin Loiselle that restricted him to just 15 minutes on Thursday. His height and toughness are needed components of the team’s make-up.
There are still tickets available for the game tonight. However, with over 2,000 in attendance on Thursday, they may be difficult to get, so don’t leave it too late if you’re planning on attending.