In hunt for final playoff spot
The Summerside Storm finds itself in about the same position this week as the unfortunate cartoon Coyote is usually in after chasing the Roadrunner off a cliff and being handed a heavy anvil.
Summerside Storm logo
Their only option appears to be to grin weakly, emit a big "Gulp" and beat their feet as fast as they can.
The Storm is four games back of the Saint John Mill Rats for the fourth and final National Basketball League (NBL) of Canada playoff position, with just seven to play. Summerside is tied with the Oshawa Power for fifth place.
Within those seven remaining games, the Storm has to win five more games than the Mill Rats do, putting Saint John’s 'magic number' over the Storm at just three. Any combination of Summerside losses and Saint John wins that equals three means that the NBL of Canada playoffs won't be visiting EastLink Arena this year.
Beating those odds is a tall order for sure. The Storm can only play as hard as they can and see if they can (wait for it!) catch lightning in a bottle – the London Lightning that is. They have a chance to do that Thursday, when they host the league-leading Lightning at 7 p.m.
The Storm has a tendency to play up or down to the competition. Against the two best teams in the league, London and Halifax, Summerside often has rip-roaring no-holds-barred efforts, giving the top dogs all they can handle.
But then they have had all sorts of trouble with Moncton and Oshawa – two teams that have been behind them all season. Consistency has been maddeningly elusive.
Storm head coach Joe Salerno probably deserves a good conduct medal for not giving in to what must have been some murderous impulses all season.
"We're not out of it until we're mathematically eliminated," a feisty Salerno pointed out this week. "And we're still there.
"We were within one point of London last week in the last minute, and if we can pull out a win here Thursday, we go to Saint John the next night with a chance to make things pretty interesting with a win there."
Salerno said the team is determined to make these games count.
"We're not in a great position, but we're going to come out swinging,” said Salerno. “Our fans have been great all year, and we want to give it everything we have for them."
Would be disappointment
Missing the playoffs would be a disappointment, but the Storm's initial season is certainly anything but. Drawing huge crowds, wowing both new and experienced fans with a level of basketball skill that had never been dreamed of before in this region, the Storm and the NBL of Canada have been a huge hit at Credit Union Place.
They are the leaders of an unbelievable basketball year on P.E.I. The most recent team to make magic are the Three Oaks Axemen senior AAA boys, who just won one of Canada's top tournaments – the legendary Coal Bowl in New Waterford, N.S.
Add that to the UPEI Panthers running away with the Atlantic University Sport men’s conference as the season winds down, and it's just one great thing after another. A Storm win Thursday would fit right in.
Bob Gray is a freelance journalist with a long history of P.E.I. basketball reporting. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.