Hometown boy McKinney relishes opportunity to play for Island Storm

Charles
Charles Reid
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Road to NBL of Canada has not been an easy one for McKinney

This game is almost over. The Island Storm feel it, the crowd feels it, the Halifax Rainmen feel it most. It's down by 25 points in the third quarter of the National Basketball League of Canada playoff game.

One more knife twist and the Storm take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Atlantic Division final.

Joe Salerno, Storm head coach, surveys his bench for the right dagger.

There. Him. Doug McKinney. Perfect.

The Charlottetown boy, the Charlottetown Rural High School standout who become an all-star with the UPEI Panthers. The three-year NBL pro with a second team all-Canada team honour to his credit.

Perfect.

McKinney's name is announced. As the lanky, 29-year-old strides onto the floor Eastlink Centre explodes with one of the largest ovations on a night full of cheers.

The forward promptly hits a two-pointer, a sweet turnaround jumper in close with a little kiss off the glass. Big cheers. He's low on the depth chart, doesn't play many nights, so any points are good points.

Halifax's Robert Nortman counters with two free throws.

Next time down, McKinney sets up outside the three-point line while the ball is cycled around the top of the key, squares his toes, receives the pass. Halifax dares the six-foot, nine-inch, 235-pounder to shoot.

He does. Swish. Three points and a 28-point lead.

Almost there, almost.

The crowd's frantic cheering eggs on the Storm defence. It forces a Rainmen offensive foul and a turnover.

Louder, it's getting louder as the fans ramp up the volume. They're feeling something...

Back down the floor, in the Rainmen zone, the Storm are cycling again. McKinney drifts outside to the spot of his first three.

Gets the ball again, sets up, beats the dare. Again.

And suddenly the Link is louder than at any other time of the evening. McKinney fist-pumps to the fan's music as he runs back on defence.

Game over, for all intents and purposes. It's 100-59 for the Storm. Thirty-one points ahead with 1:02 left in the third. There, that sound, the exhalation of Rainmen purpose rings like a funeral dirge. The visitors mail in the fourth quarter and finish at the wrong end of a 129-90 final score.

McKinney wracks up 11 points (he hit another three in the fourth quarter), four rebounds and two fouls. He's 3-of-7 from the three-point line and 4-of-10 overall.

Not huge numbers, not the heavy lifting of guard Adrian Moss who finishes with his first NBL playoff triple-double (17 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists).

Nor are they Steve Tchiengang's gaudy 12 rebounds grabbed from the sweaty mosh pit surrounding the hoop after every shot.

Nor are they the tallies of Storm forwards Jeremy Williams, Ed Jones or Dwayne Smith, who rebound, block shots, and play the three and four-forward spots all while defending top-shelf big men like Tim Parham or slick shooters like Jason Williams.

But the numbers all count on scoresheets and statistics packs, because all of it contributes to a win.

And contribution is McKinney's forte, though he's averaging just 6.4 minutes this season including playoffs.

"That's my job. It is what it is. Be a good teammate, trying to do what has gotten you to this point. Not do too much. Stick to things I'm good at," said McKinney.

"I've been a part of good teams and been a part of bad teams. Cheering them on, them cheering me on. No science to it, just comes with experience and maturity. I'm lucky that I get a chance to do what I like to do."

Organizations: National Basketball League of Canada, Charlottetown Rural High School

Geographic location: Canada

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