It’s early in the season, but the St. John’s Edge have already had to tap into their reserves … in more ways than one.
Tuesday night in Sydney, N.S., the National Basketball League of Canada expansion team played its third road game in four days, posting a 106-98 win over the Cape Breton Highlanders, a result helped by the continued clutch three-point shooting of Carl English.
But head coach Jeff Dunlap contends it’s been an overall team effort that has given the Edge a 2-1 record through three games and three different hotel stays linked together by eight hours of bus travel.
Those numbers will increase even more by tonight after the Edge cover the 475 kilometres between Sydney and Moncton, N.B., where they will take on the Magic mere hours after getting off the bus.
Heading into Tuesday night’s contest, Dunlap agreed his side has work to do to smooth out some rough edges, but has appreciated the spirit and attitude he has seen so far, especially given what has been a testing early schedule.
“We’re trying to spin it so that they take on an ‘Us against the world’ mentality and to use it to their advantage,” said Dunlap. “At the same time, they are not human, they’re not getting great rest and it is hard.
“But I like what I’ve seen.”
On Tuesday, English led the Edge with 25 points, 21 of them coming on seven successful three-pointers. The 36-year-old guard also dished out a team-leading five assists.
Four of the Patrick’s Cove native’s three-pointers and 16 of his points came in the fourth quarter.
For a third straight game, Charles Hinkle had 20 or more points for St. John’s. Playing 40 minutes, the most of anyone on his team, the 29-year-old Californian put up 23 points on the Highlanders, who were playing their home-opener at Centre 200. It was also their first game of the season.
Duke Mondy led the Highlanders with 24 points. Mondy also made all six of his three-point attempts.
The Edge played Tuesday’s game without centre Grandy Glaze, who has joined the Canadian national team for a training camp and pair of international exhibition games. He won’t be available for the rest of the road trip, which clews up Friday night in Saint John, N.B., against the Riptide.
Added in his place was rookie Zach Gordon, who wasn’t on St. John’s season-opening roster, but travelled with the team to the Maritimes with the permission of the league knowing that Glaze would be absent temporarily.
That means Gordon’s stay on the 12-man roster could also be short-term.
“For Zach, I told him to look it like a 10-day NBA contract,” said Dunlap. “He’s got three games … a chance to prove his worth.
“This is the kind of league where you do make moves throughout the year … if a player goes down or if you have a specific need. You never know.
“I’d hate to see him go if he does go, but let’s see what happens.”
What happened Tuesday was that Gordon acquitted himself well in 17 minutes of floor time, picking up six points, dishing out a couple of assists and grabbing nine rebounds, joining Hinkle and Alex Johnson for the team lead in the latter category.
In fact, despite missing Glaze, who had averaged a league-topping 18.5 rebounds in the Edge’s first two games — a win in Charlottetown, P.E.I., and a loss in Halifax — it was St. John’s that held the advantage on the boards Tuesday. The Edge outrebounded the Highlanders 56-50, which helped the visitors maintain the lead for all but about six minutes of the game.
Gordon was part of a St. John's bench that contributed a total of 39 points ion the night.