CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The Island Storm hasn't turned the corner, but the National Basketball League of Canada club thinks it’s getting closer.
They have won back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 30 and averaged 130 points per game in the process.
“That’s the way we’ve been aiming to play the whole time. We’ve been wanting to put points up on the board,” veteran Chris Johnson said before Wednesday’s practice. “Our defensive tenacity was turned up (in Sunday’s win at Cape Breton). We’re doing a lot better job of communicating, and a lot of players are finding their roles now.”
Head coach Tim Kendrick added the ball was moving well, assists were in the high 20s and the team got out in transition in its latest victory.
“We've won a couple in a row. We feel like we’re kind of starting our way back a little bit.”
So, the next challenge? Beat the three-time defending Atlantic Division champion Halifax Hurricanes today at 7 p.m. at the Eastlink Centre.
“It’s a good test for us,” Kendrick said. “Halifax is a very good team. They’re very well coached.”
And they have a core, led by floor general Cliff Clinkscales, that has been together for a couple of seasons.
“He reminds me of a Nova Scotian, he’s been there so long,” said Johnson, a North Preston, N.S., native.
The Storm (12-16) is trying to catch Saint John (13-12) for third place in the division while staying ahead of Cape Breton (11-18). Halifax (20-9) has won six straight and is 9-1 in its last 10 games to lead Moncton (18-14) for the division lead. They have also won all six meetings this season with the Storm.
“It is a big game,” Johnson said. “Every game you come into you want to get a win. For us, we’ve been playing well and we want to keep it going.”
Forward Du’Vaughn Maxwell missed Wednesday’s practice for a dentist appointment required after a hard fall to the floor late in Sunday’s game. He’s questionable for tonight. Guard Tyler Scott (thigh) didn’t practice Tuesday, but he was shooting Wednesday while forward Jarion Henry (knee) didn’t practice Wednesday.
Kendrick is hoping to have at least of two of the three back, but if not, the squad is used to the adversity of injuries. The Storm lost point guard Andre Stringer last week for the season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.
It means others will have to try to step up and fill some of the responsibilities Stringer held with the club. It can be a fine line for some to handle the added tasks without trying to force the play, but Johnson said he’s up to helping shoulder more of the load.
“I kind of want that responsibility,” said Johnson, who is third in team scoring behind Franklin Session and Maxwell at 17.8 points per game. “It pushes me to see what kind of player I am.”
A look at the outcomes of games between the Island Storm and Halifax Hurricanes this season:
Storm 88 at Hurricanes 99
Storm 96 at Hurricanes 106
Hurricanes 123 at Storm 116
Storm 94 at Hurricanes 114
Hurricanes 103 at Storm 100
Hurricanes 117 at Storm 9