Big stretch for Storm

Jason Simmonds
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Summerside basketball team to play six straight divisional games starting tonight against Mill Rats

Summerside Storm

SUMMERSIDE — While the Summerside Storm cannot afford to take any nights off in the parity-filled National Basketball League of Canada, the next two weeks carry added importance.

The Storm begins a stretch of six straight games against Atlantic Division teams tonight, when the Saint John Mill Rats visit Eastlink Arena for a 7 p.m. start.

“It’s an important stretch,” emphasized Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “We play Halifax three times and Saint John twice. They are all big (games).”

The Storm visits Halifax for back-to-back games on Sunday and Dec. 21, and travels to Saint John on Dec. 23. The Storm then returns home to host Halifax on Dec. 26 (2 p.m.), and will close out the divisional matchups against the Moncton Miracles on Dec. 28 (7 p.m.). The Storm also entertains the Montreal Jazz on New Year’s Eve at 7 p.m.

Simply put, a string of wins over the next couple of weeks could propel the Storm into first place, or a losing streak could drop them to last.

The Storm won the first two meetings of the regular season against Saint John — 118-99 on Nov. 2 and 106-96 on Nov. 9 — in Summerside. The Storm’s all-time record against the Mill Rats is 5-3, including a 3-2 mark at home.

The Storm owns a 7-6 record while Saint John took a 4-7 mark into Thursday’s home contest against Halifax (7-5). Moncton took an 8-6 resume into Thursday’s match at league-leading London (10-0).

The well-rested Storm, winners of two straight, has been idle since a 102-92 victory over the Windsor Express last Friday, and will be playing only the team’s third game in 13 days.

The Storm defeated Moncton 107-86 on Dec. 2 in their only other game this month.

“I’m looking forward to see how we react to getting back to a little bit of a normal schedule,” said Salerno earlier this week. “To have practice time, preparation time and coming off two wins, I’m also interested to see how we react to that.

“Hopefully, we can catch the wave, take it for a ride and get a couple of more wins this weekend.”

The Storm’s offence received a boost as guard Ralphy Holmes poured in a game-high 24 points in his debut against Windsor last Friday.

Salerno feels Holmes, who came off the bench last week, will eventually work his way into the starting lineup, possibly as early as today.

“Ralphy Holmes was one of the top five players in the league last year, and can start for any team in this league,” said Salerno. “We are working him in, we are looking at a couple of different lineups.

“For this weekend, with the influx of talent at the two (shooting guard) and three (small forward) positions, we may move some stuff around a bit.”

Organizations: National Basketball League of Canada, Montreal Jazz, Windsor Express

Geographic location: Summerside, Halifax, Saint John Moncton London

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