SUMMERSIDE — The two hottest teams in the National Basketball League of Canada are about to clash in a much-anticipated playoff series.
The Summerside Storm and Windsor Express will open thebest-of-five semifinal set at Eastlink Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We are both on seven-game winning streaks,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “Windsor, at one point, was 15-18, and they’ve made a heck of a run here to finish the season.
“They are playing well, and playing with confidence. When a team wins six to seven games in a row in this league, everything is clicking. That is mutual for us and Windsor.”
The Storm completed the regular season in first place of the Atlantic Division at 26-14. The Express finished second in the Central Division at 22-18. The teams split the four head-to-head meetings in the regular season, with each team winning once at home and on the road.
The Storm won in Windsor 86-74 on Nov. 16 and 96-84 in Summerside on Nov. 30. The Express, meanwhile, prevailed 97-93 in Windsor on Nov. 18 and 102-92 in Summerside on Dec. 7.
“I think it’s a great matchup,” assessed Salerno. “It will be an interesting matchup. Windsor is actually one of the best defensive teams in the league. In fact, I think they are No. 1 in defence scoring per game. When you look at us, over the last 13 games, I think we have been averaging about 115 points a game.
“Windsor plays a little bit more of a slow-down half-court game, and they are very solid defensively, where we like to get up and down a lot more and get up a lot of shots.”
Salerno added the Express “is a very disciplined team” and the Storm will have to defend well to be successful.
“I don’t think we can just rely on putting the ball in the basket,” said Salerno. “To win championships you have to defend. That will be a big key for us.”
Some interesting individual matchups worth keeping an eye on include Windsor’s Darren Duncan and Summerside’s Josiah Turner, along with Chris Commons of the Express going up against the Storm’s Omari Johnson.
Stewart returning to Storm lineup
SUMMERSIDE — When the Summerside Storm begins the franchise’s first-ever National Basketball League of Canada playoff series on Sunday afternoon, fans may be surprised to see a familiar face.
Al Stewart, who left the team two weeks ago to take a full-time teaching job in his hometown of Chicago, has decided to spend his spring break on P.E.I., and will be back in a Storm uniform for Game 1 of the best-of-five semifinal series against the Windsor Express. Game time at Eastlink Arena is 2 p.m.
The spring break allows Stewart to return to the Storm for the first four games of the series. Storm co-owner Duncan Shaw announced in a pre-game ceremony honouring Stewart before his final game on March 10 the team was leaving him on its active roster, making him eligible for the league’s all-star game in Saint John, N.B., in April.