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ROBIN SHORT: A hoops storyline not short on twists and turns

St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — Despite playing hurt during the playoffs, Dez Lee tried his best to get the St. John’s Edge over the hump in Game 4 of the NBL Canada final, scoring 43 points against the Moncton Magic.
St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — Despite playing hurt during the playoffs, Dez Lee tried his best to get the St. John’s Edge over the hump in Game 4 of the NBL Canada final, scoring 43 points against the Moncton Magic. - Contributed

St. John’s Edge 2018-19 NBL Canada season ran the full gamut

It was a strange year for the St. John’s Edge. Strange, indeed.

“As (Jarryn) Skeete’s been saying all along,” relayed coach Steve Marcus, “it’s all part of the story, man, all part of the story.’”

And with some cosmic alignment of the stars and planets, there was a thought for the moment it would all come together for a championship season, a first for pro sports in St. John’s.

So much for hoops and dreams.

“Everybody in that room,” said Marcus, “is hurt … crushed.

“The thing is that in our gut, we know we could have put forth a better effort tonight. That hurts.”

The Edge came out Thursday night and got punched in the mouth — Marcus’s words, not mine — and in the end, it was a knockout for the Moncton Magic, the National Basketball League of Canada’s best team through the regular season which dispatched the Edge in four straight for their first championship.

Moncton won 130-120, and if the truth be told, it wasn’t as close the score indicates. The Magic led by 20 at the half, and while the Edge tried to make a game of it in the third and fourth quarters, it was too much to overcome for a banged up team that lacked depth and, on this night, forgot how to grab rebounds.

The roller coaster season started in November with four losses through five games, with an injured Carl English and uneasy Edge fans grousing why St. John’s didn’t re-sign Charles Hinkle, the league’s fourth-leading scorer in 2017-18.

Then the Edge went on a tear, winning 11 of 12, but came back to earth with a string of losses followed by wins, followed by more losses.

In between, players were coming and going at a rate where fans needed a tote board to keep track, 25 in total to don an Edge jersey this season (hands up those who remember Keith Wright Jr.).

One of those transactions, however, saw the Edge quite literally land the biggest star the city’s ever seen, former NBA champ Glen “Big Baby” Davis. The big guy came in and was a fan favourite from the get-go.

It took him a while to shed some weight and get going, but when he did, the man who once averaged almost 12 points in a single NBA season barrelled through the circuit like a runaway freight train, carrying the Edge most nights on those wide shoulders.

St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — He was thrust into the St. John’s Edge head coaching role with two games left in the regular season, yet Steve Marcus helped guide the team to the NBL Canada championship final.
St. John’s Edge photo/Jeff Parsons — He was thrust into the St. John’s Edge head coaching role with two games left in the regular season, yet Steve Marcus helped guide the team to the NBL Canada championship final.

More drama ensued with two games left in the regular season, when Doug Plumb up and quit as coach, with playoffs around the corner.

Marcus, the assistant, was thrust into the head coaching role, piloting a crew that was limping into the post season with four losses in their final half-dozen games.

And then players started dropping like flies.

One injury after another after another. English, the team’s MVP in their inaugural season, was hobbled by a wonky ankle all year, then needed surgery on a damaged thumb.

In a fitting description to his lost season, English watched Thursday’s finale in street clothes, his season done with a torn quad.

At 38, one has to seriously wonder if English’s playing career is over.

At one point or another through these playoffs, the Edge missed English, Davis, Dez Lee, Shaquille Keith, Junior Cadougan, Olu Ashaolu and Satnam Singh from the lineup.

Davis, Lee, Keith, Cadougan and Singh all dressed Thursday night, but none were 100 per cent, although you wouldn’t say it showed for Lee, who dropped 43 points.

“I really don’t know what happened,” said Marcus, the native of hard-scrabble Springfield, Mass., (which also happens to be home to the Basketball Hall of Fame) of the injury bug that feasted on the Edge.

“It just felt like every time we turned around, someone was going down with an injury. So you’d activate somebody, and then someone else goes down.

“Truth is, guys played hurt all year. It’s unfortunate because these guys fought their way to get here, and I wanted it so bad for them. They deserved it after the last couple of months they went through.”

The team will disperse soon — Murphy Burnatowski, Cadougan and Keith will be playing for the Hamilton, Ont., Honey Badgers in the new Canadian Elite Basketball League — and who knows who will be back in St. John’s next season.

Marcus isn’t signed, and hasn’t spoken with ownership about next year. Davis won’t be back, either, not after his strong season. He’ll be in demand elsewhere where the money’s better (though you can be absolutely certain about this: Davis did very well during his brief tenure on town).

One would imagine that after reaching the league final, other players on the Edge roster have seen their stock rise a little, too.

Of the 11 who dressed for the Edge’s last game last season against the London Lightning, only four — English, Lee, Skeete and Russell Byrd — were back this year. Even coach Jeff Dunlap, who pieced together the Edge from the start, moved on, returning to the NCAA ranks.

So it will be back to the drawing board next season for the Edge, and who knows who will be on the court?

One thing is for sure: They’ll have a hard job matching the drama and excitement this season produced.

Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email robin.short@thetelegram.com. Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort

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