In a game of all-stars Antonio Ballard was the best of the bunch on Sunday.
The Island Storm forward scored a game-high 39 points to go with 10 rebounds, six assists and three steals to lead the Atlantic Division to a 170-165 victory over the Central Division in the National Basketball League of Canada all-star game.
“It was a fun way to end the season. A great way would have been if we would have won the NBL championship,” Ballard said after the game. “It was a way for me to go out on a good note. I had a lot of fun out there and to be at home was a bonus.”
The all-star game came three days after the Storm lost Game 7 of the final to the Windsor Express.
Moncton’s Johnny Mayhane added 27 points, Storm guard Nick Okorie 22 and Saint John’s Anthony Anderson had 21 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds at the Eastlink Centre. Storm forward Dwayne Smith added 14 points off the bench in 4:29 of playing time.
Windsor’s Chris Commons led a balanced attack for the Central Division with 25 points. His teammate, Stefan Bonneau, added 24, Brampton’s Cedric Moodie 23 and Ottawa’s Jermaine Johnson 21.
The game was filled with highlight reel plays like alley-oops, no-look passes and transition dunks with a few miscues, made trying to produce a spectacular play, sprinkled throughout the contest. Bonneau, who was the NBL finals MVP, had a couple of vicious dunks to spark the crowd. He said there was some trash-talking going on Saturday amongst the players.
“First half we’ll have fun, then second half we’re going to play a little serious to see who’s going to come out on top,” the first-time all-star explained.
With four minutes left in the game and the Central Division pushing to regain the lead, Saint John guard Doug Herring made two big defensive plays for the host Atlantic squad.
“All-star games are supposed to be fun. We’re out here for the fans to put on a good show,” he said. “But down the stretch, everybody wants to win, so you have to turn the defence up.”
One of the stops came with the Herring the only defender back on a two-on-one. When the lob pass was thrown, Herring swatted it out of play.
“A dunk is a momentum changer,” Herring said. “To get the stop and kind of deflate their hopes a little bit was a big play.”
When the final buzzer sounded, balloons and confetti fell from the rafters. The win was the first time Atlantic won an all-star game in the league’s three-year history.
“We have just as good of players, if not better players, as they have,” Ballard said.
He said he would be taking a week or two away from the court before starting to train again. He said there are leagues overseas, which play before the NBL season starts, that could be an option. The Storm will hold a fan apreciation night Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre.
A look at Sunday’s NBL all-star game in Charlottetown.
Central – 165.
Atlantic – 170.
Score by the quarters
Central 32 46 48 39
Atlantic 35 46 44 45
Central – Chris Commons 25, Stefan Bonneau 24 and Cedric Moodie 23.
Atlantic – Antonio Ballard 39, Johnny Mayhane 27 and Nick Okorie 22.
Central – Kevin Loiselle 14, Cedric Moodie 8 and Cavell Johnson 8.
Atlantic – Tim Parham 17, Antonio Ballard 10 and Anthony Anderson 9.
Central – Alex Johnson 13, Garrett Williamson 11 and Ryan Anderson 8.
Atlantic – Cliff Clinkscales 15, Anthony Anderson 12 and Johnny Mayhane 9.
Central – Chris Commons 2 and Cavell Johnson 2.
Atlantic – Anthony Anderson 2.
Field goal percentages
Central – 51 (72-for-143).
Atlantic – 52 (71-for-136).
Central – 32 (17-for-54).
Atlantic – 36 (20-for-56).
Central – 67 (2-for-3).
Atlantic – 47 (8-for-17).
Interesting stat – The Central Division had 13 of the 15 fouls called during the contest.
Central – 8 in the third quarter.
Atlantic – 16 in the second quarter.
Lead changes – 13.
Attendance – 929.
The National Basketball League of Canada announced its year-end award winners on Saturday in Charlottetown. The winners were:
MVP – Anthony Anderson, Saint John Mill Rats.
Canadian player of the year – Garrett Williamson, London Lightning.
Newcomer of the year – Justin Tubbs, Ottawa SkyHawks.
Rookie of the year – Raven Barber, Halifax Rainmen.
Defensive player of the year – Cavell Johnson, Brampton A's.
Sixth man of the year – Kirk Williams Jr., Mississauga Power.
Coach of the year – Bill Jones, Windsor Express.
Expansion franchise of the year – Brampton A's.