By Ian Shalapata
(WINDSOR, ON) – After the kind of season that the Windsor Express have enjoyed, it should make you want to grab a basketball and shoot some hoops or play a game of horse. As unlikely as it may sound, a second-year franchise has reached the NBL final round and will be facing the Island Storm from PEI for pro-basketball supremacy in Canada.
Yesterday the Express hosted a get together for media at their home court to provide full access to players and management prior to the Finals’ tipoff. Despite the effort to keep the focus on the important matter of wining the Championships, most media in attendance made a bee-line for club CEO Dartis Willis to discuss the banishment of a London reporter before game seven of the semi-finals. To his credit, Willis was open, candid, and emphatic in his part in the incident.
Regardless of the hyperbole (some in the press equated the booting to an assault on Freedom of the Press), Willis went so far as to invite Morris Dalla Costa back to the WFCU Centre anytime, and even extended the invitation to include his own personal home.
More importantly, the Windsor Express now face the team who eliminated them, last year, from the playoffs. The Island Storm, hosts of this season’s NBL All Star game, finished atop the Atlantic Conference with a 29-21 record while Windsor is the Central Conference equivalent, ending up at 36-14. However, it is also a match up between the league’s best offence (Storm 105.4 ppg) and the best defence (Express 95.9 ppg).
Windsor and Charlottetown are closely matched, player for player, too. Less than half a point separates scoring leaders Antonio Ballard (22.26 ppg) of the Storm and Windsor’s Stefan Bonneau (21.96 ppg). The Express will have to be on the look out for Al Stewart who leads the Storm with 2.3 steals per game. On the other hand, tonight’s visitors will need to keep track of Express captain Darren Duncan who has averaged 1.8 steals each game this season.
And while Ballard my give the edge to the Storm in terms of rebounding, Windsor’s Chris Commons pushes the needle back toward Windsor when it comes to blocks.
One thing is for sure. Fans attending the game will be entertained by some high-quality basketball from all the players. The only real way to be involved in the action is by buying a ticket.