NBL final features scheduling nightmare

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Bob Gray
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Storm fans hoping team makes situation even worse with another win

Awkward, to say the least.

That's the only word for the scheduling of the National Basketball League of Canada's championship series, in which the Summerside Storm find themselves as full partners today.

The Storm and the London Lightning resume their quest for the title this evening at Credit Union Place, after the Storm, facing a series sweep and elimination, exploded to a 111-99 home court victory Wednesday.

The fourth game in the best-of-five showdown is tonight, and what's going on tomorrow and Sunday?

Not Game 5, that's for sure. The league's All-Star Weekend celebrations, featuring many of the key combatants from this riveting series, take place tomorrow and Sunday in Saint John.

And if Game 5 is necessary, it will be in London. Some time.

Was the league working from the Mayan Calendar when they decided the playoff dates?

Maybe they were expecting a three or four game series. The fact that the championship trophies were right on display at the scorers' table before Game 3 certainly makes one consider that possibility.

Whoever made the schedule will certainly be rooting for the Lightning tonight, but only a few others will be, in what's expected to be a packed East Link Arena.

And who's to blame for this impending scheduling mess? Mostly Omari Johnson, that's who.

The Storm's 6'9" all-star forward was involved in two pivotal plays Wednesday that brought the already raucous crowd of 2,583 to their feet, screaming and dancing in the aisles.

Part way through the third quarter the Storm was trying to find a little breathing room in the tight game that had been tied at 45 at halftime. Johnson had just nailed a three-pointer on his way to a game-high 33, to put the Storm ahead 66-60. The Lightning misfired at the other end and the Storm broke out with the ball.

That last statement may not be totally accurate. The Storm broke out, but the ball was all over the place, as it escaped custody early. Just as it was heading out of bounds, Johnson launched himself and dove after it, saving it wildly back into the court. It was then barely kept alive by three other Storm forays into the air, each in different parts of the floor, before it somehow found itself in Josiah Turner's hands on his way to the basket.

He was fouled, made both free throws, and Summerside was off to the races.

The Lightning regrouped, as they always do, and made a run at Summerside's double-digit lead in the fourth quarter, cutting it to four. With the shot clock ticking down, and the home crowd on pins and needles, Johnson caught a low pass out near the three-point arc, calmly dribbled once to step back over the line, and nailed a three-pointer.

The crowd, already on its feet, went wild. Prince County Hospital's emergency room was overrun yesterday with patients suffering from bruised hands from all the high-fives after that one.

It was a keepsake moment for the team and its fans. They're hoping for more tonight.

Bob Gray is a freelance journalist with a long history of P.E.I. basketball reporting. He welcomes comments at: bgray@pei.sympatico.ca, and can be followed on Twitter @bgray5

Organizations: National Basketball League of Canada, London Lightning, Credit Union Place Prince County Hospital

Geographic location: Saint John

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