Storm back in action

Jason Simmonds
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Busy four days ahead for S’side’s pro basketball team

SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside Storm will swing back into action in the National Basketball League of Canada in a big way over the next few days.

The Summerside Storm’s Nick Evans, white jersey, attempts to block a shot attempt by the Saint John Mill Rats’ Micah Brand during a National Basketball League of Canada game at Eastlink Arena in November. Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer

The Storm, who last played a league game on Jan. 6, begin a stretch of three games over four days in Saint John, N.B., against the Mill Rats in an important Atlantic Division matchup on Thursday.

“We got some rest, we’re healthy and ready to go,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno, who added the break allowed the Storm “to get caught up on a few things” and get lots of preparation in for this week.

“We gave the guys some rest, four or five days off, but they still had some individual workouts and a lot of strength conditioning to keep them in shape,” continued Salerno during an interview in his office at Credit Union Place earlier this week. “We are refocusing right now and what we know we have to do to make a playoff push.”

Home Friday, Sunday

The Storm then returns to Eastlink Arena to host the Montreal Jazz on Friday at 7 p.m., and the Oshawa Power on Sunday at 2 p.m.

“It’s a busy week, it’s an important week for us,” said Salerno. “If we can come out of it with two or three wins, it’s really going to help our cause in trying to lock up a playoff spot and winning our division.”

The Atlantic Division-leading Storm will take a four-game winning streak and 13-9 (won-lost) record to Saint John while the struggling Mill Rats are 11-13.

“The division games are huge because that’s what is going to allow you to keep getting space if you get wins there,” said Salerno. “For us, the goal is to win the Atlantic Division and get probably the (No.) 2 seed. I don’t think London (22-2) is going to lose that (No.) 1 seed.”

Cooled off

The Mill Rats, who won six straight games from Dec. 13 to 28, have suddenly cooled off. The Mill Rats have lost six of their last seven games, including four straight.

“It’s a busy week, it’s an important week for us. If we can come out of it with two or three wins, it’s really going to help our cause in trying to lock up a playoff spot and winning our division.” Storm head coach Joe Salerno

This slide has prompted changes in the Port City as the Mill Rats announced the acquisitions of six-foot-seven forward Kevin Francis, six-foot-four guard Farnold Degand and six-foot-six wing Taneiko Robinson on Tuesday. Six-foot-six power forward Kenny Jones is expected to arrive next week.

“We had a sense of urgency to make these moves because we play a lot of games the remainder of January, and we had not been getting it done the last six or seven games,” explained Mill Rats president and general manager Ian McCarthy in a media release. “We owe it to our fans to be in a position to make a deep playoff run, and that’s what we are doing.”

The Storm, though, is not taking anything for granted going into the Saint John game.

“Playing Saint John, they really shoot the ball well from three (-point range), so we definitely have to limit their open shots in transition from the three line, and definitely guard their half-court sets,” said Storm centre Nick Evans. “We know what we’re capable of doing against these teams. It’s not like there are any secrets any more.

“We are halfway through the season, it’s just who goes out there and who wants it more. We have a chance to create little bit of separation with our next three games, and if we can do that we can start building for our bigger goal, which is obviously the playoffs.”

Twitter.com/JpsportsJason

Organizations: Credit Union Place, Montreal Jazz, Oshawa Power

Geographic location: Saint John, London

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