Express overcomes large deficit to shock Storm
SUMMERSIDE – It was a case of a missed opportunity for the Summerside Storm on Sunday afternoon.
© Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer
DeAndre Thomas, 44, of the Windsor Express gets off what proved to be the game-winning shot over Summerside Storm guard Al Stewart, 10, with 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation time.
The Windsor Express, who once trailed by 28 points in the second quarter, defeated the Storm 114-112 in the opening game of the best-of-five semifinal series in the National Basketball League of Canada at Eastlink Arena.
And while there were different areas the Storm could point to as contributors to allowing the game slip away, there is one in particular that stands out.
“The free-throw line is one of them,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “If you miss 20 free throws in a playoff game, when you have a 25-point lead, it’s something we can certainly point at.
“Every time down the floor we were getting fouled, we were going to the line with empty possessions or getting one of two (shots) as they (Express) were scoring two on the other end. The lead disappeared quickly.”
Overall, the Storm went 26-for-46 from the charity stripe, with 11 of those misses coming in the second half.
With 3.5 seconds remaining in regulation time, the score tied 112-112 and most of the 1,530 fans on the edge of their seats, DeAndre Thomas grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed lay-up and scored what proved to be the game-winning basket.
“We drew up one of our regular plays, and we got a good shot off it,” said Express head coach Bill Jones outside a jubilant Express dressing room.
The Storm got the ball with 1.5 seconds left, and Brandon Robinson’s inbounds pass appeared to go off the foot or leg of the Windsor defender as time expired. The Storm argued it was a kick ball, but the officials ruled otherwise and immediately headed to their dressing room while Salerno sought out an explanation.
Guard Darren Duncan poured in a game-high 33 points while playing over 37 minutes to lead the Express. Eddie Smith (19), Greg Surmacz (14), Kevin Loiselle (11) and Chris Commons (10) also scored in double digits.
The Storm’s scoring was also spread out as seven players scored 10 or more points. They were Omari Johnson (19), Brandon Robinson (17), Greg Plummer (17), Antoine Tisby (15), Chris Cayole (14), Josiah Turner (14) and Nick Evans (10).
“The free-throw line is one of them. If you miss 20 free throws in a playoff game, when you have a 25-point lead, it’s something we can certainly point at. Every time down the floor we were getting fouled, we were going to the line with empty possessions or getting one of two (shots) as they (Express) were scoring two on the other end. The lead disappeared quickly.” Storm head coach Joe Salerno
Improved defensive play
Jones said Windsor’s slow start could be attributed to the long trip to Summerside. The Express did not have a shoot-around on Sunday morning, opting to get much-needed rest.
“The first half we were a little sluggish,” said Jones. “We came out and started playing Windsor Express basketball, and we were successful in the second half.”
Jones said the key to the Express comeback was improved defensive play in the second half.
“We just started playing defence,” said Jones. “In the first half we gave up 70 points, and that’s uncharacteristic of our team.
“We’ve been playing good defence, we’ve been holding our opponents to under 100 points. We made some adjustments for the second half and we were successful.”
Although the Storm took a 23-point lead, 70-47, into halftime, Salerno expected the Express to make a run in the second half.
The Express outscored their hosts 34-20 in the third quarter and 33-22 in the final 12-minute period while the Storm shot 15-for-46 from the field in the second half, including a 6-for-25 showing in the third quarter.
“I expected this to be a single-digit to a 10-to-15-point ball game,” said Salerno. “We went on a pretty bad cold spell in the third quarter, we just couldn’t get any shots to drop.
“We knew they were going to start shooting the basketball better. Greg Surmacz hit some big shots late. I think we played well enough to win the basketball game.
“Again, 20 free throws missed, that’s 20 possessions. That’s out of character for this team.”