Crunch time for Storm

Jason Simmonds
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Hosts Oshawa in first of five games over eight-day period

SUMMERSIDE -- Any time a team is on the outside looking in on a playoff position there is little room for error.

Xavier Hansbro, 15, of the Summerside Storm and the Oshawa Power’s Omari Johnson reach for a rebound during a National Basketball League of Canada game in Summerside on Jan. 12. Also getting in position to get involved in the play are the Power’s Brandon Robinson, 15, and Paul Campbell, 44, along with the Storm’s Julian Allen. The Power won the game 131-122 in overtime.

No one is more aware of that than the Summerside Storm, who begin a crucial stretch of five games in eight days against the Oshawa Power on Friday. Game time at EastLink Arena is 7:30 p.m.

"Really, the next five games could determine our fate if we're in the post-season or not," said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. "These are all important ones coming up, and there is no more important (game) than Friday night."

The Storm (8-14) sits fifth in the National Basketball League of Canada standings, one point behind the fourth-place Saint John Mill Rats (9-13) and the final playoff position. However, Oshawa (8-16) can cloud the playoff picture and move to within a game of the Storm with a win Friday.

"Everywhere we go people are asking us about Saint John, and you are one game back of Saint John," said Salerno. "For us, we have to take every game one game at a time. We are not thinking about being one game back of the playoffs, or thinking of Saint John. We are just thinking of Oshawa."

It will be the second meeting in nine days between the Storm and Power in Summerside. Oshawa pulled out a 131-122 decision on Jan. 12. That game was the first of two straight overtime losses for the Storm, who also fell 145-136 in two extra periods to Quebec on Sunday.

"Oshawa shot for an extremely high percentage, and I thought many of those shots were contested in the last game," said Salerno. "We're just trying to make some changes slated to our game plan, limit their possessions and make sure we control them in transition because they are an athletic team that can get out and run."

‘Cure on the Court'

Friday's game is part of the league's ‘Cure on the Court' initiative in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. As a result, fans are urged to wear pink and each team has a variety of activities planned to raise funds in their respective markets.

More focused

When asked how the mood of the team was in practice this week after back-to-back overtime losses, Salerno said he found the Storm to be more focused.

"I've noticed a slight change in guys since that Quebec loss, where it kind of hit us in the face that we just lost two close ones and we have to get down to business here and win some ball games," said Salerno.

Storm shooting guard and small forward Louie McCroskey agreed the Storm has to play with urgency.

"The season has not been going like we planned," said McCroskey. "Everybody is kind of disappointed, but at this point we just have to get it done.

"I'm one of those guys who does not like to say much, I just like to play. We have to play to our potential. At this point, we're playing to stay in the playoff hunt because the games are winding down. It's been a while since we've put a couple of wins together. I have faith in the guys; we just have to get it done."

Injury update

On the injury front, guard Eric Gilchrest (concussion) and forward Chris Cayole (ankle) are doubtful for Friday's game.

"Basically, he (Gilchrese) has to go 36 or 48 hours without a headache before he is put through any physical testing, and he has not passed that yet," explained Salerno. "He's probably out for Friday.

"Chris Cayole, I expected to be back this week, but it looks like it's going to be another few days. It's not quite progressing as quickly as we had hoped. . . I thought we may have both guys this weekend, and it looks like we may not have either of them."




Organizations: National Basketball League of Canada, Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation

Geographic location: Oshawa, Saint John, Quebec Summerside

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