SUMMERSIDE — An inability to put together a solid 48 minutes cost the Summerside Storm an important win in the National Basketball League of Canada on Sunday afternoon.
The Oshawa Power, who were playing their third game in less than 72 hours, overcame a 20-point deficit at halftime en route to an exciting 117-114 win.
“We got complacent, we stopped defending and I think it was our best half of the year and our worst half of the year in the same game,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “We jumped out to a real comfortable lead, and we lost an edge.
“I think halftime was the worst thing that could have happened to us right there. All we talked about was we have to match our intensity from the first half, this is the best team that has come into our building yet, so we have to finish the game. We obviously didn’t go out and do that.”
The loss snapped the Storm’s six-game winning streak, and dropped their Atlantic Division-leading record to 15-10.
Before 1,834 fans at Eastlink Arena on Sunday afternoon, the Storm led 25-24 after one quarter, and then outscored the Power 40-21 in the second period to take a 65-45 lead into the break.
“Everybody on our team is fighters, and we don’t like to lose at the end of the day,” said the Power’s Nick Okorie, who scored 30 of his game-high 32 points in the second half. “We came in at halftime and talked that this is not acceptable, and we are a lot better than this.
“We know we can score, and knew it was possible to come back from a 20-point deficit with the firepower we have on offence. We knew we had to lock in on defence.”
Jushay Rockett (21), William (Bo) Harris (20), Papa Oppong (15) and Mark Gomillia (14) were the other leading scorers for the Power (15-11), who outscored the Storm 43-24 in the third quarter to make it a one-point game, 89-88, going into the final 12 minutes.
Antonio Ballard, who scored 16 of his team-high 28 points in the first half, hauled in 12 rebounds for his 13th double-double of the season. Brandon Robinson (20), who figured prominently in the Storm’s final two offensive possessions, Omari Johnson (17) and Greg Plummer (15) were the Storm’s other top point-getters.
Overall, the Power outrebounded the Storm 60-45. It was only the fourth time this season the Storm has been outrebounded.
“They beat us by 15 rebounds,” said Salerno. “I think we’ve outrebounded our opponents in 21 of (our first) 24 games this season.
“They were hungrier than us, which says a lot about them, considering this was their third game in three days. If I would have ever thought we would have had that type of performance in the second half up 20, I would have thought I was crazy. It just wasn’t a good enough effort, and we need to learn from it.”
However, a wild finish to the game kept fans on the edge of their seats.
With the Power up 116-111, Johnson drained a three-pointer in the final minute to make it a two-point game, 116-114. The Storm got the ball back and had an opportunity to tie the game, but Robinson rang about an eight-footer off the back of the basket with 12 seconds left in game.
Okorie then hit one of two free throws to give Oshawa a 117-114 lead. The Storm charged up the court and Robinson’s attempted pass to the corner for a potential game-tying three-pointer was knocked down by the Power. It was then game over.
“They came out and hit a couple of early shots right out of the gate (to start the second half),” said Salerno. “If you give that team confidence, they will bite you. They are a very quick, athletic team.
“Nick Okorie just caught fire in the second half. It didn’t matter if there was a hand in front of his face or not. I’m extremely disappointed in the effort we had in the second half.
“It didn’t seem to matter who we went with or what we tried to do. We gave up too many easy buckets in transition, which gave that team an awful lot of confidence in the half-court game and they started knocking down shots.”
The Storm faces another tough test on Thursday night, when the league-leading London Lightning (23-2) of the Central Division visits Eastlink Arena for a 7 p.m. start. It will be the first meeting of the regular season between the two division leaders.