The Storm, who trailed for most of the game, outscored the Halifax Rainmen 33-20 in the fourth quarter en route to the 118-112 victory before 2,159 fans that created a playoff-like atmosphere at Eastlink Arena.
“It was a grind,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno after the game.
The Storm, who improved to 24-14 (won-lost), clinched the Atlantic Division regular-season title with Friday night’s 105-100 win over the Oshawa Power. The Storm has also secured the No. 2 seed for the upcoming playoffs. Halifax, which, is in a five-team battle for the final three playoff positions, dropped to 19-19.
“I didn’t know how we would come out in the first half being our first game since we clinched the Atlantic (Division),” said Salerno. “We came out a little flat and a little soft defensively.
“I really credit Halifax, they shot the ball tremendously well in the first half. It was a little frustrating because even when we did defend well they were knocking down shots.
“But we answered and came back in the second half. Halifax was making it a pretty physical game out there, and I thought we responded.”
After the Storm took a 2-0 lead, they would not hold the lead until there was 3:59 left in the fourth quarter, when Brandon Robinson drove to the basket and laid the ball in for a 106-105 advantage.
Robinson and Johnson continued to put up big offensive numbers for the Storm. Robinson sank a game-high 33 points while Johnson checked in with 28. Greg Plummer (14) and Josiah Turner (10) also scored in double digits for the Storm.
“Josiah Turner played exceptionally well, they had a tough time defending him,” assessed Salerno.
Johnson, who hit a key three-pointer with under a minute remaining in Friday’s win, also drained another important shot from beyond the arc. With the Storm up 110-107, Johnson swished a three-point shot from the corner with 1:49 remaining to make it a six-point game, 113-107.
“Obviously, B-Rob (Robinson) and Omari played their games, and Chris Cayole stepped up pretty big,” continued Salerno in his assessment.
Akeem Wright led the Rainmen with 29 points, and Melvin Goins chipped in with 26.
“I didn’t know how we would come out in the first half being our first game since we clinched the Atlantic (Division). We came out a little flat and a little soft defensively. I really credit Halifax, they shot the ball tremendously well in the first half. It was a little frustrating because even when we did defend well they were knocking down shots. But we answered and came back in the second half. Halifax was making it a pretty physical game out there, and I thought we responded.” - Storm head coach Joe Salerno
The Storm outscored the Rainmen 66-30 in the paint.
Emotions run high
Emotions ran high at the conclusion of the game as the teams had to be separated after some pushing and shoving just before the traditional post-game handshakes.
“It was an intense game and Halifax is playing for their playoff life,” said Salerno. “I’m sure it was a tough one for them to drop.
“I don’t know exactly what the details were. Emotions run pretty high this time of year, but all those guys know each other and I’m sure they are shaking hands now. It was just a little heated moment and that was it.”
The Storm will close out the regular season with two home games this week. The league-leading London Lightning (32-6) visit for a much-anticipated matchup on Thursday at 7 p.m., and the Rainmen are back in town for a rare Saturday contest at 7 p.m.
Notes from Sunday’s
The Storm winning streak is now at five games. The team record is six.
The Storm has won five of their last six home games.
The Storm has scored 100 or more points in six straight games, and 25 of the last 27 games.
The Storm recorded 36 assists – the team’s third-highest total ever.
The Storm had 18 steals to tie the club record.
Brandon Robinson scored 33 points to become the first Storm player to score 30 or more points in consecutive games.
Omari Johnson scored 28 points. He has a club-record 15 consecutive games with 10 or more points.
The 12 field goals made by Johnson is one away from the club record of 13.
The 16 free throws attempted by Robinson was the second-highest in franchise history, two behind Mike Williams’ 18 against Oshawa on Jan. 20, 2012. Robinson’s 13 free throws made ties a team record.
Al Stewart had 12 assists for a total of 34 assists in his last three games.
Compiled by Harvey Mazerolle