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Hobbled St. John’s overcomes two-game deficit to defeat Sudbury and advance in NBL Canada playoffs
There were all kinds of reasons and excuses for the St. John’s Edge to have rolled over, and handed off their first-round playoff series to the Sudbury Five.
Chief among them were injuries, which has reduced the Edge roster to nine players seeing the floor.
But in a display of grit and guts, the Edge managed to overcome a 2-1 series deficit with back-to-back victories, including Sunday’s 101-92 decision in the fifth and deciding game at Mile One Centre, sending the Edge to the National Basketball League of Canada’s Central Division final for the second straight year.
St. John’s will face the Kitchener-Waterloo Titans in the next round, and the Edge will have homecourt advantage.
The Titans knocked off the defending champion London Lightning in Game 5 Sunday in London.
Games 1 and 2 of the next series will take place at Mile One Centre and dates will be finalized today. Expect the first game to start around Easter Weekend.
“To have our backs against the wall,” said Edge coach Steve Marcus, “… that was a gutty win, no question.
“But you know, we dictated the tempo whole series, especially the last two games. Our guys stepped up and made shots when we needed them, and we executed when we needed to down the stretch.
“Like I said, it was a gritty win, a gutsy win.”
Friday night, in Sudbury, the shorthanded Edge forced Game 5 with a 107-104 decision.
They’ve done so without the services of Shaquille Keith, who suffered a broken foot last Wednesday in Sudbury. There’s still no sign of Carl English, as he recovers from a thumb injury, and Dez Lee has been hobbled (he played only two minutes Friday, but punched in a team-high 42 minutes of work Sunday).
Sunday, the Edge lost star guard Junior Cadougan, the league’s most improved player this season, for the entire fourth quarter after he suffered an injury.
“One through, what, how many guys left now? Ten?” asked Marcus. “Every one of those guys stepped up. Everybody had a piece of that victory.”
St. John’s led 40-38 at halftime, but Sudbury at one point in the third quarter had jumped out to a 10-point lead. However, the Edge pulled away in the final 12 minutes of play, thanks in part to the hot-shooting Murphy Burnatowski, who drained 12 points, and Glen Davis, who sank eight.
Burnatowski, from Waterloo, Ont., via Colgate University, led the Edge with 25 points, 18 of them from the three-point arc. “Big Baby” Davis continues to drive the bus for the Edge, contributing 19 points, pulling down 10 rebounds and just simply being a game-changer with his wide body in the paint.
Cadougan scored 16 points, Lee netted 15 to go with 11 boards and Isaiah Tate had 11 points in 37 minutes of work.
“I think the momentum that we can carry from this series into the next round is huge,” Marcus said. “We were in this position last year, and we made it to the Central Division final.
“The whole goal all year was to win a championship, and, yes, there have been ups and downs. But the guys have really come together, and after these two big wins, I think it can be a springboard to the next round, especially if we continue to play our brand of basketball.”
Marcus said he doesn’t expect to bring in another player to replace Keith, for fear of disrupting any kind of chemistry in the locker room.
As for English, he was originally speculated to miss eight weeks, and this week will mark the eighth since he had surgery on his left thumb, or non-shooting hand.
“We’re in Round 2, and that was the goal from the outset for him to get to,” Marcus said.