What looked like a blowout turned into a rock fight, but eventually the Island Storm threw the last stones in a 117-111 victory over the Halifax Rainmen on Tuesday in Charlottetown.
Storm guard Nick Okorie scored twice and forward Ed Jones forced a turnover and slammed down an emphatic dunk over the final 43 seconds to ice the National Basketball League of Canada game at Eastlink Centre.
The Storm moved to 19-14, one game behind the Atlantic Division-leading Saint John Mill Rats (20-13), while the Rainmen fell to 7-26, last in the division. The Atlantic winner earns home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Tuesday's game started with the Storm running out to a 11-0 first-quarter lead against a sluggish Rainmen squad.
But Halifax head coach Craig Hodges, a former guard with the Chicago Bulls, changed out his starting five and the team responded, nudging into the lead until it trailed 52-49 at halftime.
No surprise to Storm point guard Adrian Moss. Moss finished with 11 points, eight rebounds and dished out nine assists.
"We've played them so many times. We know them, they know our stuff. I don't know how they've won just seven games. They've gotten better as the year goes on. We made a few defensive mistakes, got frustrated," said Moss, whose team has won eight of nine games and eight straight at Eastlink Centre. "(But) this team just keeps finding a way to win. Right now it's about winning. Everything in practice is more mental than physical."
The Storm's Antonio Ballard and Okorie each had a game-high 25 points while Ballard grabbed 20 rebounds. Steve Tchiengang chipped in 15 points and Antwi Atuahene had 10 points. Okorie also handed out nine assists.
Moss put those mental drills into practice when with 4:37 left in the fourth quarter and the game tied 101-101, he fouled Jujuan Cooley, who led a Halifax break.
With the Storm not over the five-foul limit and it not being a foul committed while Cooley was shooting, the Rainmen got the ball out of bounds. Halifax missed the shot after putting the ball into play, the Storm rebounded the miss and Jones finished on a breakout the other way.
It gave the Storm a 103-101 lead it wouldn't surrender.
"(Assistant) Coach Mike (Leslie) talked about that in practice. . . so I went ahead a took the foul. I credit coach Mike for that that one," said Moss.
Olumuyiwa Famutimi led Halifax with 23 points and 16 boards while Cooley drained 21. Chris Matthews had 18 points including 4-of-5 from beyond the three-point line.
The Storm has seven games regular season game remaining before the post-season. If Moss and company don't overtake Saint John, they will likely face the Moncton Miracles (12-22) in the first round.
But you never know.
It's a close league as Tuesday's game proved, said Joe Salerno, Storm head coach.
"In this league it's very tough to hold leads. Halifax is the best 7-26 team in the league and continue to get better," said Salerno. "No lead is safe. Our bench didn't play as well as it has recently. I thought Nick Evans had some quality minutes."
Evans, re-signed by the Storm on Monday, had five points and five rebounds after landing in Charlottetown 45 minutes before game time.
New Halifax signees Brian Addison and Clifford Clinkscales had 11 and nine points, respectively. Clinkscales added nine assists.
Next up, the Storm host the Miracles on Saturday. Game time is 7 p.m. at The Link.
On the web at www.nblcanada.ca.
A look at Tuesday's National Basketball League of Canada game at Eastlink Centre:
The Outcome - Island Storm 117 Halifax 111
Top Three Scorers - Halifax: Olumuyiwa Famutimi, 23, Cooley, 21, Chris Matthews, 18; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 25, Nick Okorie, 25, Steve Tchiengang, 15.
Top Three Rebounders - Halifax: Olumuyiwa Famutimi, 16, Tim Parham, 7, Brian Addison, 6; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 20, Adrian Moss, 8, Nick Evans, 5.
Three-Point Shooter - Halifax: Chris Matthews, 4-for-5; Island Storm: Adrian Moss, 1-for-3.
Most Assists - Halifax: Jujuan Cooley, 9; Island Storm: Adrian Moss, 9.
Free Throws - Halifax: Olumuyiwa Famutimi, 6-for-6; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 4-for-5.
Next Up - The Storm (19-14) face the Moncton Miracles (12-22) Saturday at Eastlink Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.
By The Numbers
Field Goal Shooting - Halifax: 45 per cent, 42-of-94; Island Storm: 49 per cent, 48-of-98.
Three-Point Shooting - Halifax: 41 per cent, 9-of-22; Island Storm: 21 per cent, 5-of-24.
Free Throw Shooting - Halifax: 62 per cent, 18-of-29; Island Storm: 73 per cent, 16-of-22.
Total Rebounds - Halifax: 53; Island Storm: 60.
Turnovers - Halifax: 18; Island Storm: 19.
Steals - Halifax: 11; Island Storm: 9
Bench Scoring - Halifax: 50; Island Storm: 39.
50-50 Draw - $337.50.