SUMMERSIDE — The Summerside Storm may have waited until the second half to kick things into gear, but once they got on a roll the game took on a different look.
The Storm overcame a 55-41 halftime deficit to defeat the Saint John Mill Rats 106-96. It was the second win in a week for the Storm over Saint John after winning the season-opener 118-99 a week earlier.
“We were two totally different teams (on Friday night),” said Storm power forward Doug McKinney of Charlottetown. “The first half we weren’t doing things that work well for us, crossing the offensive boards, getting to the free-throw line — we only shot three free throws in the first half . . . If you are only shooting three free throws to the other team’s 16, you are going to be in a battle.
“We persevered through it in the second half, and there was never a second of doubt in our locker room. We knew what we had to do, come out and battle and fight, and just get back to the stuff that has won us games in the past.”
The win improved the Storm’s record to 2-0 in the National Basketball League of Canada regular season. Saint John fell to 1-2.
Trailed most of night
Before 2,024 fans at Eastlink Arena, the Storm, who was led by the 27-point effort by former Mill Rat Greg Plummer, found themselves trailing most of the night.
Jerice Crouch, who finished with 17 points, hit a three-pointer to give the Mill Rats an early 5-2 lead, and Saint John nevertrailed after that until the fourth quarter. Although the first quarter wasclose throughout, the Mill Rats ended the first 12 minutes on a 7-0 run to open up a 30-20 lead.
The Mill Rats built a 12-point lead, 34-22, early in the second quarter, but it looked like the Storm was about to make things interesting. Back-to-back baskets by McKinney brought the Storm to within 34-28, and had the crowd back in the game. The Storm hauled in a defensive rebound on Saint John’s next possession, but the Mill Rats stole the ball and Antonio Burks drained a three-pointer to make it a nine-point game, 37-28.
“We were aggressive on defence, but we gave up a lot of threes on broken plays,” assessed McKinney. “There were a lot of offensive rebounds that we gave up, and those are real killers. They hit a couple of threes off offensive rebounds, and those hurt the most.”
The Storm closed to within 37-33, but Saint John, which was led by Micah Brand’s 18 points, finished the half on a 16-8 run to take a 55-41 lead into halftime.
The Storm, who received a 17-point effort from Al Stewart, outscored the Mill Rats 26-23 in the third quarter, but once again Saint John nullified a potential Summerside rally with a late three-pointer. Summerside closed to within 75-67 and missed a three-point shot that would have made it 75-67. Saint John went back up the floor and Melvin Council hit nothing but net to make it 78-67 after three quarters.
However, the Storm scored back-to-back baskets to open the fourth quarter on their way to outscoring Saint John 39-18 in the final 12 minutes. After the Storm took an 83-81 lead, McKinney drained a three-pointer to make the score 86-81, and the Storm would not look back.
“It feels great (to contribute offensively),” said McKinney. “We’ve been practising for several weeks now, and they’re (teammates) willing to make that pass.
“I have to be willing to catch and shoot, whether I’m playing two minutes a game or 12. That doesn’t matter, and I have to be ready to go.”
The Storm opens a five-game road trip in Moncton today.