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Storm still smarting

Franklin Session, left, signs the Whose House? Our House sign brandished by Cornwall’s Mauro (Stats) Corazza, right, at most Island Storm games this season. The Eastlink Centre usually echoed with Corazza’s Whose House? Our House call and answer with the Eastlink crowd used to fire up the Storm players.
Franklin Session, left, signs the Whose House? Our House sign brandished by Cornwall’s Mauro (Stats) Corazza, right, at most Island Storm games this season. The Eastlink Centre usually echoed with Corazza’s Whose House? Our House call and answer with the Eastlink crowd used to fire up the Storm players. - Charles Reid

Island Storm players and coaches reflect on 2017-18 season after playoff ouster by Halifax

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - It’s only been two days, but the Island Storm’s Game 4 playoff loss to the Halifax Hurricanes still smarts.

Saturday, the Hurricanes bounced the Storm from the National Basketball League of Canada playoffs with a 120-103 win in the Atlantic Division semifinal.

And Franklin Session, the NBL of Canada’s newcomer of the year, felt the hurt at the team’s season wrap-up party Monday in Charlottetown. 

“Hell yeah, it does. (It all) hasn’t set in yet. I’m still here, fans are still here, we’re at the Eastlink Centre. It feels like we should be playing a game,” said Franklin, a Los Angeles, Calif., native.

Session, a six-foot-two, 190-pound guard, finished second in the NBL in rebounding at 9.8 boards per game and led the Storm in scoring (19.6 points per game) and assists (5.7 per contest).

Not bad for his first year of pro basketball. It’s earned him a tryout in the Chinese version of the NBL later this month, but regardless Session said he hopes to return next season after working on his game over the summer

“I think I did alright (sometimes) I think I didn’t do too well. To be a real pro you have to be consistent. If you’re not consistent it’s hard to stay on the floor, get a job or get a raise,” he said. “If I can make it stick (in China) it will be supercool. Cool just to have the opportunity.”

An injury-hampered Storm hobbled through much of the season, though few players or coaches would use that as an excuse. 

It lost point guard Andre Stringer to an Achilles heel injury, guards Tyler Scott and Chris Johnson were banged up down the stretch and in the playoffs limiting their availability, several players missed large chunks of game and practice time and late-season releases of Du’Vaughn Maxwell and Jarion Henry chopped the bench to 10 men against the talented and deep Hurricanes.

Despite those problems, the Storm battled through the regular season, even rattling off an eight-game winning streak in late February and into March and finished 19-21, good for fourth in the Atlantic.

Then it gave Halifax all it could handle in the playoffs by winning Game 1 and, minus bad third quarters in Games 2 and 3 and a rough second quarter in Game 4, kept pace and might have found itself in the Atlantic Division final. 

For head coach Tim Kendrick, who aims to return next season, it was a solid record given all the games lost to injury, roster snafus and predictions the team would never reach the post-season. 

He said Halifax benefits from player core that’s been together for several seasons and sees that organization as a model for the Storm. 

“There were a lot of positives. That’s the kind of thing we would like to do. They don’t get down, they just keep playing. They lost Game 1 and there was no panic. That comes from continuity and things. That’s what I think our management team is looking to build.”

Last season the Storm cleared house, letting former head coach Joe Salerno go (he signed with the Moncton Miraces) and trading, releasing or allowing players to sigh elsewhere. Kendrick came from the UPEI Panthers to fill in the head coach gig.

Brad States turned out to be the lone holdover from 2016-17 and the forward’s improved game saw more playing time - that despite nursing a fracture in his left foot all season - for the UPEI alum who hooped under Kendrick.

States, a Bathurst, N.B., native, also has fingers crossed for a return next season and plans to be better, but, he said, he won’t being teamed again with former Panthers Scott and Dut Dut and coached by Kendrick for a second stint.

“Oh yeah, it always sucks to lose a playoff game. No practice to go to. You look back, you see the things you need to work for the summer, the things you need to battle for a championship,” States said. “Got to give a shout out to Dut Dut, Tyler and Coach. It was cool playing together in university and then pro. It was their first year and my second and definitely special.”

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