Antonio Ballard drained 32 points and the Island Storm needed every one of them in a rough-and- tumble 115-104 victory over the Moncton Miracles on Thursday night at the Eastlink Centre.
The Storm jumped out to an
8-2 first-quarter lead and a 33-24 end-of-quarter edge in the National Basketball League of Canada game.
But the physical Miracles, always a tough out for the Storm, never wilted in Eastlink Centre and kept themselves alive, thanks mainly to Johnny Mayhane and Trayvon Lathon, who went for 29 and 20 points, respectively.
“You know, it’s Moncton. It’s always like that with Moncton.
It’s prison ball,” said Ballard,
who also grabbed a game-high 19 rebounds.
The Storm (14-13) has won two straight contests versus its Atlantic Division rival and evened the season series 4-4. Moncton fell to 9-19.
Storm guard Nick Okorie dropped in 21 points, including 3-for-8 from the three point line, while Adrian Moss, starting at point guard for the injured Al Stewart, had 17 points (15 from three-point land) and a game-high 10 assists.
Charlottetown native Doug McKinney had a season-high 10 points and forward Ed Jones also chipped in a 10-spot.
Moncton’s Stanley Robinson and Oliver McNally each had 16 points. Travis George led the Miracles with 11 boards while Robinson grabbed nine.
Basketball games often have turning points where one team exploits its advantage over another, but Thursday if there was a turning point, it came in the opening of the second quarter.
The Storm shooters went cold and didn’t score the team’s 34th point until almost three minutes into the frame. But the Miracles couldn’t hit anything either, getting just a two-point basket over that span, and missed its chance to gain ground.
The closest Moncton would get was within two points on three occasions in the last quarter.
For Ballard’s part, he said was too involved to notice a clear turning point.
“I might have looked up at the score now and then, but I don’t watch the scoreboard. I play better that way,” he said.
It must have worked, too, as Ballard needed 14 points going into the game to overtake Stewart as the Storm’s all-time leading scorer. Stewart has 1,024 while Ballard now has 1,042.
Ballard, however, didn't know about the feat when informed and credited his Storm mates.
“It’s a blessing, but the credit goes to my teammates for setting screens and getting me shots,” said Ballard. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
The Storm faces the division-leading Mill Rats (17-10) tonight in Saint John, N.B. Game time is
New Storm big man Bilal Dixon landed in Charlottetown Thursday but wasn’t yet cleared by FIBA to play.
Storm coach Joe Salerno wasn’t sure if Dixon would be in uniform for tonight’s game.
A look at Thursday's NBL of Canada game at Eastlink Centre:
u The Outcome - Island Storm 115 Moncton 104
u Top Three Scorers - Moncton: Johnny Mayhane, 29, Trayvon Lathan, 20, Stanley Robinson, 16; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 32, Nick Okorie, 21, Adrian Moss, 17.
u Top Three Rebounders - Moncton: George Travis, 11, Stanley Robinson, 9, Trayvon Lathan, 8; Island Storm: Antonio Ballard, 19, Dwayne Smith, 6, Ed Jones, 5.
u Three-Point Shooters - Moncton: Johnny Mayhane, 4-for-10; Island Storm: Adrian Moss, 5-for-8.
u Most Assists - Moncton: Oliver McNally, 7; Island Storm: Adrian Moss, 10.
u Free Throws - Moncton: Johnny Mayhane, 7-for-8; Island Storm: Ed Jones, 5-for-6.
u Field Goal Shooting - Moncton: 53 per cent, 40-of-75; Island Storm: 40 per cent, 37-of-92.
u Three-Point Shooting - Moncton: 36 per cent, 5-of-14; Island Storm: 41 per cent, 12-of-29.
u Free Throw Shooting - Moncton: 61 per cent, 19-of-31; Island Storm: 74 per cent, 29-of-39.
u Turnovers - Moncton: 24; Island Storm: 9.
u Points Off Turnovers - Moncton: 6; Island Storm: 27
u Bench Scoring - Moncton: 34; Island Storm: 27.
u Steals - Moncton: 3; Island Storm: 8.
u 50-50 Draw - $330.
u Next Up - The Storm (14-13) faces the Mill Rats (17-10) tonight in Saint John, N.B. Game time is 7 p.m.