The Storm posted a 116-97 victory over the National Basketball League of Canada-leading London Lightning, who came into Summerside with an overall record of 23-2 (won-lost) and a 9-0 resumé on the road.
“I’m very pleased,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “This was going to be a measuring stick for us, playing the best team in the league.”
The Atlantic Division-leading Storm improved to 16-10 in what can be described as a bounce-back game before an announced crowd 1,353 fans.
It was the Storm’s first game since allowing a 20-point halftime lead to evaporate in a 117-114 home-court loss to the Oshawa Power on Sunday afternoon.
“We had 31 assists, we were moving the ball,” said Salerno in assessing his team’s play against London. “I thought Brandon Robinson played one of the best games he’s played for us all season.
“He had 36 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and just hit tough shots. We had a steady production out of our starting five, and we extended their minutes a little more tonight (Thursday).
“We didn’t go to the bench quite as much tonight, but when we did I thought the bench came in and played well also.
“We wanted to push the tempo, and I thought we were very good in transition. I thought we made good decisions, and most of that started on the glass.”
Omari Johnson (24), Greg Plummer (22) and Antonio Ballard (14) were the other leading scorers for the Storm. Johnson hauled in 10 rebounds to also notch a double-double.
Tim Ellis (25), Rodney Buford (14), Elvin Mims (13) and Jeremy Williams (13) were London’s top point-getters.
Josiah Turner made his Storm debut after signing with the team earlier this week. Turner shot 1-for-5 from the field, was 0-for-2 from beyond the arc, chipped in with eight assists and had one defensive rebound in approximately six minutes of playing time. Salerno liked what he saw in the 20-year-old, especially his vision on the court.
After the Lightning jumped out to an early 6-2 lead, the Storm went on to build a 13-point lead, 33-20, late in the first quarter, which ended with the Storm in front 33-22.
“I’m very pleased. This was going to be a measuring stick for us, playing the best team in the league.” - Storm head coach Joe Salerno
The Lightning scored the first six points of the second quarter, and although they closed to within 45-44 London never led in the period. Brandon Robinson banked a buzzer-beating three-pointer off the glass to send the Storm into halftime in front 54-47.
The Storm came out of the locker room on fire, scoring the first 13 points of the third quarter to go up 67-47. After Buford scored the Lightning’s first basket of the quarter to make it 67-49, Plummer hit from downtown to give Storm 70-49 advantage.
However, the veteran Lightning did not panic and went on a 23-6 run to cut the Storm lead to 76-72. The Storm answered back with two clutch free throws by Robinson and a dunk by Johnson to take a 80-72 cushion into the final 12-minute period.
The Lightning was within striking distance, down 94-87 with just under five minutes remaining, but Robinson continued to deliver key shots as he sank his first of two three-pointers down the stretch to make it a 10-point game.
“We said in the third quarter, ‘Listen, this team is 23-2 for a reason, and they are going to make a run at us and we have to withstand that run,’” said Salerno. “We knew they were going to make it, and we had to punch back.
“Last Sunday was a real tough loss for the guys, and they weren’t going to let that happen. London threw a lot of punches at us, and we punched back.”
The Storm had very little time to celebrate Thursday night’s win. That’s because the Storm is right back on the court at Eastlink Arena this evening (Friday), hosting the Halifax Rainmen in the opening game of a home-and-home series between the two Atlantic Division teams at 7 p.m.
The teams meet again at the Halifax Metro Centre on Sunday.
The Storm brings a 16-10 (won-lost) record into the game while Halifax, which is coming off a 110-82 win over the Windsor Express on Thursday night, is 13-14.