© Jason Simmonds/TC Media
Brandon Robinson of the Summerside Storm looks to make a move on the London Lightning’s Jeremy Williams during first-half action in Wednesday night’s National Basketball League of Canada playoff game at Eastlink Arena.
SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside Storm is right back in the National Basketball League of Canada championship series.
The Storm, facing a must-win situation, defeated the London Lightning 111-99 to force a Game 4 in the best-of-five set at Eastlink Arena on Friday at 7 p.m. The Lightning leads the series 2-1, and will be looking to win back-to-back titles while the Storm will be aiming to send the series back to London, Ont., for a deciding game next week.
“We can’t give a team on their home court 40 points in a quarter,” said Lightning head coach Micheal Ray Richardson, referring to the Storm outscoring his team 40-28 in the third quarter after the teams went into halftime tied 45-45. “We didn’t play any defence, and we threw the ball away like it was a hot potato. That’s the game.
“I told the boys coming out of the locker room (at halftime), who wins the third quarter wins the game. They won the third quarter, they won the game.”
The announced crowd of 2,582 provided an electric atmosphere in Eastlink Arena, which started with a standing ovation for the Storm before the player introductions.
“We still made very poor decisions with the ball,” assessed Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “In the first half, the amount of turnovers we had was mind-blowing, considering it was a focus point for us over the lastcouple of days.
“I really thought we were aggressive, got up and defended and were able to get out in transition and run a little more tonight (Wednesday). I attribute a lot of that to our home crowd. We didn’t have that kind of bounce in our step in London. The guys feed off that energy, and itreally initiated our transition game tonight.”
Johnson steps up
Omari Johnson had the hot hand for the Storm, pouring in a game-high 33 points, shooting over 50 per cent from the field – 13-for-21.
“The game ball goes to Omari Johnson,” said Salerno. “He struggled in Games 1 and 2, and tonight couldn’t have been a better situation for us. He shot the ball well, got his confidence back up there and I look for him to be tough again in Game 4.
We didn’t play any defence, and we threw the ball away like it was a hot potato. Micheal Ray Richardson, London Lightning coach
“A lot of people say there is nothing like home cooking, and I think Omari needed a little bit of that. . . We need him to win this series.”
Johnson was also in the middle of the play that swung the momentum in the Storm’s favour, said Salerno. It was in the third quarter, and Johnson went airborne at the end line to save the ball and throw it back into play, that led to some more scrambling and hustling by both teams in an attempt to get control of the ball. The fans gave another standing ovation for the hustle provided by the Storm players on that play, who were diving all over the place in pursuit of loose balls.
“There was one play this game that turned the whole game around,” said Salerno. “It was the most helter-skelter play of the evening where the ball was thrown around four or five times and ended with Josiah Turner free throws.
“The crowd loved it, it energized our guys and we made a big run after that play. It was an exciting atmosphere to play in, and I’m certainly looking forward to having another one on Friday.”
However, the game was not without its nervous moments for the Storm, who watched a 13-point lead late in the third quarter – 85-72 – dwindle to just four – 93-89 – in the fourth quarter.
The Storm answered back by closing the game on an 18-10 run.
“We gathered ourselves a bit,” said Salerno. “We were trying to be a little overaggressive still, and we needed to settle down, move thebasketball, wait for some good shots and stop settling for jumpers. I thought we did that.
“We knew it was going to be a tight game, and I thought it would be a little tighter than this.”
Brandon Robinson and Antoine Tisby both had 20-point efforts for the Storm while Turner finished with 19. Tim Ellis (17), DeAnthony Bowden (16) and Morgan Lewis (15) were the top scorers for London.