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By Scott Briggs
SAINT JOHN – Anthony Anderson scored a game-high 37 points to lead the Saint John Mill Rats to a 106-104 win over the Island Storm in Thursday night’s National Basketball League of Canada action before 1,461 fans at Harbour Station.
The dynamic point guard also went 5-for-11 from beyond the three-point arc, but it’s the trey he missed in the game’s dying seconds that set up the decisive bucket. Anderson threw up a three that fell short, but Jermaine Blackburn grabbed it and scored. There was still 0.4 seconds on the clock and the Storm’s Ed Jones barely missed tying it up after an Island timeout. The teams will face each other again Friday night in Charlottetown.
“I honestly didn’t see him at all,” Anderson said about Blackburn, who had 14 points. “I just threw it up and I might have got fouled on my way down, and then Blackburn comes out of nowhere.”
Saint John’s other double-digit scorers included Tyrone Levett (18 points), Doug Herring Jr. (12) and Raheem Singleton (11). The Mill Rats improved to 15-9 and went 31-for-34 from the foul line for over 91 per cent.
“Earlier in the season, we couldn’t make free throws to save our life,” Anderson said. “That’s something we’ve been keying on more since we had those troubles.
“It’s definitely crucial. We feel like we have one of the best perimeters in the league and we try to put pressure on guys. If we can knock those down, we can make them pay.”
Antonio Ballard scored 27 points for the Storm (11-13), while Steve Tchiengang tallied 20. Nick Okorie notched 17 in the losing cause and Jones added 14.
The Storm led 29-25 after the first quarter, thanks in large part to Ballard’s 11-point effort. But the Mill Rats pulled ahead early in the second quarter and led by 11 with a little less than six minutes left in the frame after making their first 15 free throws.
But the Storm had pulled within four when Saint John head coach Rob Spon called a timeout with 2:39 left in the quarter. Jones made three of four from the line to tie the tilt 44-44 with less than two minutes left in the period.
But Saint John regained the lead on Herring’s jam and gained a 50-46 edge by halftime.
With just over two minutes left in the third, Anderson potted two free throws and followed by knocking down his third three-pointer. He nailed another three-ball late in the quarter before making two more shots from the line with nine seconds on the clock, giving Saint John an 82-75 lead entering the final frame.
But the visitors gained the momentum back early in the fourth quarter. Jones’ three-pointer gave the Storm an 83-82 edge with 10:20 remaining. Levett’s fifth foul sent Tchiengang to the line and he made both free throws for a 97-93 Island lead with just under five minutes left. With the score tied 99-99 and 2:55 left, Blackburn swished two from the charity stripe for a two-point lead. Anderson’s three made it 104-101 with just over two minutes remaining.
The Mill Rats return to the Harbour Station hardwood when they host the two-time defending champion London Lightning Sunday at 4 p.m.