Storm wins thriller to take 3-1 series lead

Charles Reid
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Game 5 goes Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre

Free-throw shooting and defence courtesy of Nick Okorie placed the Island Storm one win away from its first National Basketball League of Canada title after a 104-103 Game 4 victory over the Windsor Express Friday in Charlottetown.

Okorie's three clutch free throws with four seconds left in the game and his last-shot defence on Windsor sniper Stefan Bonneau, who went for a game-high 34 points, gave the Storm a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven championship final in front of 2,300 fans at Eastlink Centre.

Game 5 is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Link.

First, the defence. Okorie said he used his style against Bonneau when the Windsor guard received the inbounds pass at the top of the Storm key with four seconds remaining in the game.

"Me and him like the same shots. We use the step-back crossover and drive, but I thought if I leaned hard on the step-back he wasn't going to go (to the hoop). . . He was going to shoot. Get a good contest," said Okorie, who had team highs in points (31) and assists (eight), and was 14-of-15 from the charity stripe.

Okorie did get a good contest and Bonneau's shot bounced off the front of the rim as the buzzer sounded. Bonneau bent over and held his head in hands for severel seconds as Storm players celebrated.

Second, the free throws.

After a timeout with 11 seconds left, the Storm was down 103-101 and inbounded the ball in the Express zone.

Off a screen, Okorie was fouled seven seconds later by Express guard Darren Duncan outside the three-point line.

That gave Okorie three free throws, which the Houston, Tex., native drained giving the Storm a 104-103 lead.

It made up, he said, for a missed free throw he still thinks about from late in the season against Mississauga.

"I'm one of the best free-throw shooters on the team. I had to focus on shooting," he said, adding he didn't play up Duncan's foul to the referees. "No, I came off the screen and his hand was out. I came up shooting my regular shot."

Storm forward Antonio Ballard had 22 points while Jeremy Williams had 17 points. The pair led the team with eight rebounds each.

Quinell Brown had 20 points for Windsor while Duncan chipped in 14. Brown grabbed a game-high nine rebounds.

As for Windsor, head coach Bill Jones, his voice hoarse after the game, wasn't giving up yet. And said he told his troops the same thing.

"I said this series is not over. We have an opportunity to come out (today) and extend our season," said Jones, who guided Windsor to a NBL-best 29 wins in the regular season and into the final.

Windsor led 26-22 after the first quarter. The Storm had a 45-44 halftime edge. The teams were even 27-27 and 32-32 in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

As for the Storm, Okorie had the same thoughts as Jones.

"They're going to come out firing. They don't want to go home (by losing the final). We have to play solid defence," said Okorie. "I feel like if we come out aggressive, they'll lay down."

Game 6 and 7, if necessary, are Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, in Windsor.


Instant Replay

A look at Friday's National Basketball League of Canada playoff game at Eastlink Centre:

The Outcome - Island Storm 104 Windsor 103

Top Three Scorers - Windsor: Stefan Bonneau, 34, Quinell Brown, 20, Darren Duncan, 14; Island Storm: Nick Okorie, 31, Antonio Ballard, 22, Jeremy Williams, 15.

Top Three Rebounders - Windsor: Quinnel Brown, 9, Stefan Bonneau, 6, DeAndre Thomas, 5; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 8, Jeremy Williams, 8, Casey Love, 7.

Three-Point Shooter - Windsor: Stefan Bonneau, 5-for-10; Island Storm: Al Stewart, 1-for-1.

Most Assists - Windsor: Darren Duncan, 7; Island Storm: Nick Okorie, 8.

Free Throws - Windsor: Stefan Bonneau, 13-for-13; Island Storm: Nick Okorie, 14-for-15.

Next Up - The Storm host the Express in Game 5 of the best-of-seven NBL final today at Eastlink Centre. Game time is 7 p.m.

By The Numbers

Score By Quarter -

Windsor  26  18  27  32   103

Storm    22   23  27  32   104

Field Goal Shooting - Windsor: 45 per cent, 32-of-71; Island Storm: 46 per cent, 36-of-78.

Three-Point Shooting - Windsor: 40 per cent, 10-of-25; Island Storm: 27 per cent, 6-of-22.

Free-Throw Shooting - Windsor: 78 per cent, 29-of-37; Island Storm: 79 per cent, 26-of-33.

Total Rebounds - Windsor: 44; Island Storm: 48.

Turnovers - Windsor: 19; Island Storm: 16.

Steals - Windsor: 8; Island Storm: 10.

Bench Scoring - Windsor: 20; Island Storm: 20.

Attendance - 2,300.

50-50 Draw - $1,485.

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