With thrilling Game 5 win over Windsor
SUMMERSIDE – The Summerside Storm will play for the National Basketball League of Canada championship.
© Jason Simmonds/Journal Pioneer
The Summerside Storm’s Nick Evans, 50, and Royce Parran, 7, salute the fans at Eastlink Arena following Tuesday night’s 109-103 victory over the Windsor Express.
The Storm pulled out a thrilling 109-103 victory over the Windsor Express at Eastlink Arena on Tuesday night to win the fifth and deciding game of the best-of-five semifinal series. The Storm now moves on to take on the top-seeded London Lightning in the best-of-five final.
“I give so much credit to Windsor because they are as resilient as we are,” said Storm head coach Joe Salerno. “They were down in almost every game this series, and always came back and were right in the ball game, and won a couple.
“For our guys, I really think we learned a lot from Game 1. Giving up that (28-point) lead (in a 114-112 loss) and Windsor forcing a Game 5 here tonight (with a 124-122) double-overtime win in Game 4), we learned a lot from it.”
The announced crowd of 2,073 fans, who were on their feet for the final minute and a half of the fourth quarter, got their money’s worth with a nail-biting finish.
The Express went on a 20-9 run to turn a 91-80 deficit into a 100-100 game with 1:27 remaining in regulation time.
But, as he did all game long, Plummer came through in the clutch with two free throws with 1:19 remaining in the fourth quarter, and Omari Johnson hit two from the charity stripe with 44.3 seconds left to make it a two-possession game – 104-100 Storm.
“Free throws, that’s mental stuff,” said Plummer. “If you want it you have to shut everything down, focus and make the shot.
“It’s not an easy thing to do, but it has to be done. That was my focus – whatever has to be done, I want to do it.”
However, the Express refused to go quietly. Greg Surmacz hit a three-pointer with 18.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to make it 106-103, setting the stage for a nail-biting finish.
The Express then fouled Johnson, who went to the line with 17.4 seconds left. Johnson missed both free throws, but Plummer made an incredible diving play to save the ball under the basket, and his desperation play resulted in the ball going right back to Johnson, who laid it in to make it 108-103.
“I had to fight Surmacz for that ball,” explained Plummer. “He’s a strong guy. I got my hands on it and almost rebounded it, but they got their hands on it and it went down.
“I wanted the ball. The ball bounced our way when I threw it inbounds.”
Plummer closed out the scoring by hitting one of two free throws.
The Storm, who led 25-24 after the first quarter and 56-48 at halftime, took an 11-point lead, 87-76, into the fourth quarter.
“Greg Plummer was unrea. He was the definition of resilient, the definition of a leader and the heart he showed tonight was just incredible.” Storm head coach Joe Salerno
Plummer said it was important for the Storm to understand that there were going to be moments in the game when things were not going to go their way.
“But it’s what we do when those moments come is what defines the winner of the game or series,” said Plummer. “Clearly, them winning Game 1 after we had them down so many points, and after having them down and control over this game and them coming back and tying it up, those are things you have to overcome.
“It’s playoff basketball. It’s not what the other team does, it’s what you do to respond to what they do.”
Plummer steps up
Plummer, who poured in a game-high 30 points, finished 4-for-6 from three-point range and 10-for-12 from the free-throw line.
“Greg Plummer was unreal,” said Salerno. “He was the definition of resilient, the definition of a leader and the heart he showed tonight was just incredible.”
Plummer, who hauled in 11 rebounds, was one of three Storm players to record double-doubles. Omari Johnson (19 points, 12 rebounds) and Josiah Turner (14 points, 10 rebounds) were the other two. Royce Parran, who had nine points, recorded a game-high 11 assists.
Mike Helms (23) and DeAndre Thomas (19) were the top scorers for the Express.
The Storm played the game without the high-scoring Brandon Robinson, who suffered an ankle injury in Game 4 on Saturday night.
“We knew we were missing some scoring, but guys stepped up,” said Salerno. “Greg Plummer stepped up and was huge, Omari had a good game and I thought Josiah and Royce both played pretty well.
“We have been a deep team pretty much all season. To have our bench guys step up the way they did, and Chris Cayole played well tonight. . . I’m just really proud of the whole team.”
NBL of Canada’s championship series:
Saturday, April 6
Game 1: Summerside Storm at London Lightning.
Sunday, April 7
Game 2: Summerside at London.
Wednesday, April 10
Game 3: London at Summerside.
Friday, April 12
Game 4: London at Summerside, if necessary.
Game 5: TBA, if necessary.