In the past seven days, Storm players have appeared in an amazing array of strange places – in Christmas parades across the land, and even on the court; the Storm season has gone from solid to disaster to, “We’re playoff bound,” and countless fans and hangers-on have broken their ankles jumping frantically off and on the bandwagon. The orthopedic ward at Prince County Hospital is stretched to its limit.
What a difference a win makes.
After a 4-0 (won-lost) start to the season, the Storm had been scuffling along through the end of November, losing five of six in one stretch, and then had a, uh, poor (to be charitable) game Friday night at home, going down 96-84 to the expansion Windsor Express.
But suddenly, again at home on Sunday, everything fell into place and they blew out the Moncton Miracles by 21. The shooters shot well, the defenders defended fiercely, the rebounders dominated the boards and Unbridled Optimism made a special return visit to Eastlink Arena – from where she had been missing for weeks – peeking out from behind a curtain early as the Storm exploded to an 18-point lead in the first quarter.
The fans’ injured ankles may explain the slight attendance dip in the past few outings at Credit Union Place (crowds are in the 1,600s). Maybe people just can’t get there after all the bandwagon jumping.
More likely, it’s Christmas time, and there are too many other commitments. The same thing happened last season and then, as soon as Christmas hit, the floodgates were loosed, and the Storm rode the crest of rising attendance right to the end of the season.
As for strange places for the Storm players, they included a medal-worthy very early morning (long before you were awake) appearance by Avery Smith and Brandon Hassell at the Salvation Army store Tuesday for CBC radio’s annual Turkey Drive show, and a special group guest shot with Santa at the Souris Santa Claus Parade.
Closer to home, a strange appearance was made by Doug McKinney in Sunday’s win against Moncton. His strange place was in the starting lineup.
McKinney, the personable 6’9” Islander, who most often leads cheers from the bench, was inserted into the starting five after the Windsor debacle on Friday night. The Storm announced Saturday that he was starting Sunday’s game, in an obvious marketing move.
However, what appeared at first to simply be a gimmick, paid solid dividends as McKinney had career highs in minutes (29), points (8), and brought the house down with two rainbow three-pointers. Note the 28-10 first quarter score. He may never sit down again.
An imaginary player – Omari Johnson – has yet to be seen.
Present and accounted, though, are Greg Plummer and Antonio Ballard. Thank goodness. Sunday, Plummer dropped a team-record 40 on Moncton (8-for-16 from three-point land), and Ballard has been a total beast at both ends of the floor for a month now.
The Storm gets a chance at revenge against the Express on Friday night at home, and Unbridled Optimism will be right there at courtside for the tip off.
Be careful of your ankles.
Bob Gray is a freelance journalist with a long history of P.E.I. basketball reporting. He welcomes comments at email@example.com, and can be followed on Twitter @bgray5.