Storm ready for stretch drive

Jason Malloy
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Island Storm guard Antwi Atuahene drives against assistant coach Mike Leslie during a practice at UPEI.

Island squad plays its final three regular season home games during coming week

It’s go time for the Island Storm.

The team has eight games remaining in its 40-game National Basketball League of Canada schedule. Three of the next four are at home before finishing on the road, including three in Ontario.

The Storm (18-14) began the season wanting to win the Atlantic Division. It is currently trailing the Saint John Mill Rats (19-13) for first place.

 “We’re close to accomplishing the goal that we set at the beginning of the season. We have to follow through and finish,” Storm coach Joe Salerno said before Monday’s practice. “We have to take care of our business.”

Winning the division would guarantee the Storm home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

“I love, personally, playing at home,” said forward Antonio Ballard. “We have a pretty good home-court record, so home court for us is definitely a big advantage in our eyes.

“If we can get it, we’d love to have it.”

Three of the Storm’s remaining games are against the Halifax Rainmen, including tonight’s

7 p.m. contest at the Eastlink Centre, where the Storm is 11-1 in its past 12 games, including seven straight victories.

“We’ve played very well at home this season,” Salerno said. “We have to take advantage of the few home games we have left.”

The Rainmen (7-25) have defeated the Storm twice this season, but not in Charlottetown. They came close in losing 114-105 on Friday.

Halifax signed point guard Clifford Clinkscales and point forward Brian Addison on Monday.

Depth has been an issue for the Rainmen this season and the additions are expected to help address the issue.

“I think we’ll see a bit of a different Halifax team. They’re certainly a team that gave us all we could handle the last time we saw them,” Salerno said. “We’ll have our hands full.”

The Storm will have Shawn Vanzant back in the lineup and while point guard Al Stewart is not ready to play tonight, he practised Monday with his teammates for the first time since spraining his knee in mid January.

“I’m back,” Stewart said as he entered the gym to teammates’ cheers at Monday’s practice.

Salerno said the team is hoping to have Stewart back this weekend.

****

A look at the Island Storm’s remaining regular season games.

All times are Atlantic.

Tonight

Halifax Rainmen at Storm, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Moncton Miracles at Storm, 7 p.m.

Sunday

Storm at Halifax, 2 p.m.

Monday

Saint John Mill Rats at Storm, 2 p.m.

Feb. 22

Storm at London Lightning, 8 p.m.

Feb. 24

Storm at Brampton A’s, 8 p.m.

Feb. 25

Storm at Mississauga Power, 8 p.m.

Feb. 27

Storm at Halifax, 7 p.m.

Organizations: National Basketball League of Canada, Halifax, Eastlink Centre London Lightning Mississauga Power

Geographic location: Charlottetown

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