© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
Island Storm’s Steve Tchiengang defends against Ottawa SkyHawks’ Jermaine Johnson during NBL of Canada action Wednesday night in Charlottetown.
Nick Okorie’s two straight three-pointers clipped the wings of the Ottawa SkyHawks and propelled the Island Storm to a 96-83 victory Wednesday in Charlottetown.
Down for much of the National Basketball League of Canada game, the Storm stumbled and fumbled at Eastlink Centre, missing layups and dunks, mishandling the ball and getting fast-breaked by the quick, elusive SkyHawks.
But the Island squad hung around until Okorie’s six points in 27 seconds late in the fourth quarter gave the Storm an 88-83 lead it wouldn’t relinquish, that after recovering from a 10-point deficit.
“They were open threes and I had to knock them down. That’s what they brought me here to do,” said the guard, who finished with 17 points and seven assists. “I felt we were out of synch . . . (but we thought) we could get a couple of defensive stops, and get to their shooters. Most off their points came off the fast break not the half court set.”
The Storm moved to 16-13 in the Atlantic Division after its fifth straight victory and fourth consecutive at home. Ottawa dropped to 15-16 in the Central Division.
It was the first game of a three-game swing through the Atlantic circuit for the SkyHawks.
Ottawa’s Jerice Crouch led all scorers with 26 points while Ryan Anderson drained 16 points (12 from the three-point line) and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. Justin Tubbs chipped in 17 points and seven boards for Ottawa.
Antonio Ballard had a Storm-high 22 points, including 12-for-12 from the free throw line and 6-for-6 in the dying seconds, and 12 rebounds.
Newcomer Bilal Dixon had 10 points in his Storm debut.
Shawn Vanzant had 13 points and six assists while playing point guard for injured point man Al Stewart (knee).
Backup point guard Adrian Moss was also out with lower body injury, so Vanzant, Atwi Atuahene and Okorie carried the play.
“We started off a little flat, especially in the first half, (but) we’re mentally tough and got back in the game,” said Vanzant, the Storm’s first-round pick in 2013. “My natural position is point guard. When I got here (head) coach (Joe Salerno) made me a two. I’m still adjusting. I just tried to do what Al does and get everyone involved.”
The Storm won’t play again until Tuesday versus the Halifax Rainmen at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre, and it's good timing for Stewart and Moss who are on the mend.
Either way, Okorie was pleased with the guard corps.
“We feel like any guard we have in the game can step up,” he said.
Stewart is out for at least two more weeks. Moss was a game-time decision on Wednesday.
A look at Thursday's National Basketball League of Canada game at Eastlink Centre:
u The Outcome - Island Storm 96 Ottawa 83
u Top Three Scorers - Ottawa: Jerice Crouch, 26, Justin Tubbs, 17, Ryan Anderson, 16 points; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 22, Nick Okorie, 17, Shawn Vanzant, 13.
u Top Three Rebounders - Ottawa: Ryan Anderson, 13, Jerice Crouch, 8, Justin Tubbs, 7; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 12, Steve Tchiengang, 7, Jeremy Williams, 6.
u Three-Point Shooter - Ottawa: Ryan Anderson, 4-for-10; Island Storm: Nick Okorie, 2-for-6.
u Most Assists - Ottawa: Ryan Anderson, 9; Island Storm: Nick Okorie, 7.
u Free Throws - Ottawa: Jerice Crouch, 6-for-6; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 12-for-12.
u Field Goal Shooting - Ottawa: 41 per cent, 33-of-805; Island Storm: 34 per cent, 32-of-94.
u Three-Point Shooting - Ottawa: 27 per cent, 8-of-30; Island Storm: 21 per cent, 5-of-24.
u Free Throw Shooting - Ottawa: 82 per cent, 9-of-11; Island Storm: 87 per cent, 27-of-31.
u Turnovers - Ottawa: 29; Island Storm: 11.
u Points Off Turnovers - Ottawa: 9; Island Storm: 35.
u Bench Scoring - Ottawa: 6; Island Storm: 39.
u Second Chance Points - Ottawa: 8; Island Storm: 22.
u 50-50 Draw - $362.50.
u Next Up - The Storm (16-13) faces the Halifax Rainmen (6-23) Tuesday at Eastlink Centre at 7 p.m.