SUMMERSIDE — Despite a few nervous moments in the fourth quarter, the Summerside Storm opened the 2012-13 National Basketball League of Canada regular season with a 19-point victory on Friday night.
Greg Plummer scored 26 points to lead the Storm past the Saint John Mill Rats 118-99. The 2,119 fans at Eastlink Arena were treated to an impressive pre-game show, including fireworks.
“It was a great opening night for us,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “I do think we could have played better than we did.
“We looked pretty sloppy at times, but for us not playing completely up to our potential, we still played well.”
There were some nervous moments for the Storm, who struggled closing out games a year ago. The Storm, who built a 19-point lead (51-32) in the second quarter, saw the Mill Rats close to within seven points on two occasions — once in the third quarter (73-66) and again early in the fourth quarter (57-50). But the Storm closed out the game with a 31-19 run.
“I certainly had flashbacks in my head when they cut it to seven (in the fourth quarter),” said Salerno. “We talked a lot this pre-season about closing games out, and we just had to dig in defensively and make sure they were one and done, rebound the ball and we did that.
“We had a pretty good final six, seven minutes to close the game out.”
The Storm led 26-22 after the first quarter, and Plummer hit back-to-back three-point shots to give the Storm a 32-22 advantage. The Storm took a 55-42 advantage into halftime, and was in front 84-75 after three quarters.
Avery Smith (19), Antonio Ballard (12), Al Stewart (11), Louis Birdsong Jr. (10) and Issa Konare (10) were the Storm’s other leading scorers.
“Credit Summerside,” said Mill Rats head coach David Cooper. “They are a great team, well coached, very disciplined, they executed very well and are very aggressive.
“They went after the basketball, they got a lot of offensive rebounds, a lot of loose basketballs and when you shoot 40 per cent from (three-point range), it’s tough.”
Jerice Crouch, with a game-high 27 points, and Anthony Anderson, who sank 24, were Saint John’s top scorers.
The Mill Rats started the game on fire as they jumped out to early 10-4 and 16-9 leads.
The Storm’s next game is on Friday at 7 p.m., when Saint John visits Summerside once again.