By Ian Shalapata
(WINDSOR, ON) – After a couple of days in Windsor, it was expected that The Island Storm would play to their potential and give the Windsor Express the challenge expected from the Atlantic Conference champs. After a slow start, The Island Storm came from behind to hand Windsor a 104-102 loss and even up the series at 1 game apiece.
The Express started strong again on Sunday afternoon. They ran to a 5-0 start before The Island Storm could get on the board. But Windsor continued the pressure throughout the 1st quarter, leading by as much as 18 points, and closed the clock at 34-16. The visitors continued to work hard and closed the gap by half time, trailing just 55-47.
The wheels seemed to fall off the train in the second half as the Storm out-scored Windsor 33-20 in the 3rd to take over the lead in the game and quieten the 1,500+ fans at the WFCU Arena. The Express pulled up their socks in the final frame, out-scoring he Island Storm 27-24, but it was too little, too late. Even a trio of heroic attempts as the seconds ticked off couldn’t bring the Express joy; a Stefan Bonneau trey attempt, a Chris Commons jumper, and a Kevin Loiselle layup all bounced off the rim for no points. All three players, incidentally, have been named to the NBL Central Conference All-Star team.
And like the All-Star game, the Express and Island Storm will now travel to Charlottetown for the next three games of Championship Series.
The story of the game wasn’t a lack of effort from the Express players. Bonneau scored a game high 34 points, while Commons contributed 21 and captain Darren Duncan dropped 15. Defensively, Loiselle blocked four shots and pulled down five boards while DeAndre Thomas had three steals and nine rebounds.
The real story was in the improved play of The Island Storm. Led by Nick Okorie and 31 points, the team shot a combined 82% from the foul line and was over 80% in both halves. And while Windsor dropped 43% from the floor, the Storm replied with 39% on six more total shots. Storm head coach Joe Salerno also benefited by 37 points from his bench whereas Bill Jones was given just 18 from his reserves.
Game 3 is scheduled for this Wednesday at 7:00 pm, local time. Games 4 and 5 will be Friday and Saturday at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown. The games will be live streamed on the internet.