The Summerside Storm and Windsor Express will open the best-of-five semifinal set at Eastlink Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m.
“We are both on seven-game winning streaks,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “Windsor, at one point, was 15-18, and they’ve made a heck of a run here to finish the season.
“They are playing well, and playing with confidence. When a team wins six to seven games in a row in this league, everything is clicking. That is mutual for us and Windsor.”
The Storm completed the regular season in first place of the Atlantic Division at 26-14. The Express finished second in the Central Division at 22-18. Both teams split the four head-to-head meetings in the regular season, with each team winning once at home and on the road.
The Storm won in Windsor 86-74 on Nov. 16 and 96-84 in Summerside on Nov. 30. The Express, meanwhile, prevailed 97-93 in Windsor on Nov. 18 and 102-92 in Summerside on Dec. 7.
“I think it’s a great matchup,” assessed Salerno. “It will be an interesting matchup. “Windsor is actually one of the best defensive teams in the league. In fact, I think they are No. 1 in defence scoring per game. When you look at us, over the last 13 games, I think we have been averaging about 115 points a game.
“Windsor plays a little bit more of a slow-down half-court game, and they are very solid defensively, where we like to get up and down a lot more and get up a lot of shots.”
Salerno added the Express “is a very disciplined team” and the Storm will have to defend well to be successful.
“I don’t think we can just rely on putting the ball in the basket,” said Salerno. “To win championships you have to defend. That will be a big key for us.”
Salerno also went on to say there are some very interesting individual matchups worth keeping an eye on. Those include Windsor’s Darren Duncan and Summerside’s Josiah Turner, along with Chris Commons of the Express going up against the Storm’s Omari Johnson.
“Darren Duncan, who is leading the league in assists, is a very heady veteran point guard,” offered Salerno. “It will be interesting to see how Josiah handles that matchup with Royce (Parran).
“We are both on seven-game winning streaks. They are playing well, and playing with confidence. When a team wins six to seven games in a row in this league, everything is clicking. That is mutual for us and Windsor.” - Storm head coach Joe Salerno
“Also, Chris Commons is leading the team in scoring with Windsor, I think he is just shy of 20 points a game at the power forward position, so him and Omari Johnson will be a great matchup as well.”
Another key aspect of the series, Salerno said, will be strong play from the Storm bench.
“I really think the bench has to play well to keep up with the depth Windsor has,” said Salerno, who praised the work of Express head coach Bill Jones.
“Coach Jones has done a great job over there,” continued Salerno. “His players have definitely bought in with the way they are defending. Nothing comes easy against those guys.
“We will have our work cut out for us, but we are up for it. We are ready to go.”
Efforts to reach Jones through the Express front office were unsuccessful.
Summerside Storm notebook:
The Storm’s current seven-game winning streak is the longest in franchise history.
The Storm has scored 100 or more points in 31 of their 40 regular-season games. They have scored 100 or more in eight straight games and 27 of their last 29.
Individually, the Storm has three players in the top 11 in scoring average this season. They are Brandon Robinson (2nd, 21 PPG), Omari Johnson (4th, almost 20 PPG) and Greg Plummer (11th, almost 17 PPG).
The Storm finished second in the league in team assists per game. They averaged just under 23.50 per game.
Game 2 is also in Summerside on Tuesday at 7 p.m., before the series shifts to Windsor for Game 3 on Thursday and, if necessary, Game 4 on Saturday. If necessary, Game 5 will be back in Summerside on Tuesday, April 2.
Advance tickets can be purchased at the Credit Union Place box office, or online by visiting the Storm website.