SUMMERSIDE — Friday night had the feel of a playoff game rather than simply a regular-season home game for the Summerside Storm.
And the Storm didn’t disappoint the announced 3,094 fans at EastLink Arena, defeating the Oshawa Power 129-121. Many players and fans wore pink clothing to support “Cure on the Court,” a Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation awareness program.
The win snapped an eight-game home losing streak for Summerside, dating back to Dec. 1, 2011.
“I’m happy for the guys,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “It’s been a monkey on their back.
“I’ve had guys talk to me about how great our fans are and they want to win at home for those fans, probably even more so than trying to make this playoff run.”
Summerside improved to 9-14 (won-lost) with the win, good for fifth place in the seven-team National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada.
The Storm could’ve moved closer to the Saint John Mill Rats for the fourth and final playoff spot, however the Mill Rats were also victorious over the Quebec Kebs 102-100 on Friday.
Oshawa fell to 8-17 with the loss.
The Storm started off strong both defensively and offensively against the Power, jumping out to a 35-22 lead after the first quarter.
But Oshawa’s shooters were on fire in the second quarter, scorching the Storm 43-23 to lead 65-58 at halftime.
The Power’s Tut Ruach had 20 of his team-high 26 points in the first half.
But the Storm, knowing Oshawa had only eight players at their disposal, had a second-half plan.
“Oshawa shoots the ball extremely well, and we knew their legs were going to start going a little bit, only playing eight tonight (Friday),” said Salerno.
“We said we have to limit them to one possession. The legs are going to start going, shots are going to start falling, so we can’t give them second-chance opportunities.”
The Storm would keep the game close in the third quarter, before getting a measure of payback in the fourth.
They outscored Oshawa 37-20 in the final 12 minutes, led by 14 second-half points from Mike Williams and key late-game buckets from Julian Allen.
“Everybody was on fire tonight because we knew it was a must-win in order to make that push for the playoffs,” said Williams, who finished with a game-high 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds.
“During crunch time we stepped up and got stops when we needed them.”
Allen finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds, almost all of which came in the second half. Stephen McDowell poured in 25 points, Xavier Hansbro had 19 and Al Stewart came up one rebound shy of a triple-double with 15 points, 17 assists and nine boards.
The Storm plays on the road in Halifax on Sunday and in Moncton on Monday. The team’s next home game is against the Halifax Rainmen on Thursday, Jan. 26.
“(Friday’s win) should give us some good momentum going into a very good Halifax team — the Metro Centre’s a tough place to play,” said Salerno. “We had some guys really contribute tonight, and I’d like to see them feed of that.”