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Friday April 18th, 2014

Posted at 11:37am

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Started from the bottom, now they’re here. And they’ve just made history. The Windsor Express have battled back from a 3-1 series deficit, survived elimination twice, fought through obstacle and adversity to capture the holy grail of the National Basketball League of Canada. It wasn’t easy, but the tracks were laid, and the train rolled on. Thursday night, in front of nearly 3500 screaming fans inside the WFCU Centre, the Express played a dominant game against the Island Storm, and their hard work certainly paid off in a monumental way. Windsor defeated the Island 121-106 in Game 7 to win the NBL Championship.

Just as he’d done in many previous games, Stefan Bonneau led the way in scoring with 32 points. Chris Commons put up 20 points, while Quinnel Brown scored 19 points. DeAndre Thomas also scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Darren Duncan added 13 points and 16 assists.

The Express picked up speed quickly right from tip-off. Commons opened the scoring, and then Bonneau sank a three-pointer as Windsor got an early spree from its offense. The Storm slowed the train down momentarily, getting within 5 points with Nick Okorie’s points. Bonneau would hit a last-second three for Windsor to end the offensive quarter, giving the Express a 32-24 lead after one.

The crowd erupted for each of Windsor’s baskets, from beginning to end.

And Windsor kept putting up the points. Its offense continued to push past the Island’s defense. Bonneau, Brown and Commons each drained three-point shots to build a 22-point advantage. With a minute to go, Bonneau once again did what he does best and hit another three. The Storm answered with one of their own, but Duncan wouldn’t let them celebrate – he scored one of his own with 10 seconds to go in the half. One more high-scoring quarter from the Express gave them a massive 64-41 lead at halftime.

The fans were roaring in cheers as their team headed to the locker room for the break.

The Express came out, once again, on fire. Bonneau kept the train rolling with an early dunk to start the third quarter. Not to be outdone, Commons slammed the ball down following a steal. The play and constant rush from the Express forced the Storm into a timeout with hopes of recovering. But they couldn’t – Windsor wouldn’t let them. An airborne alley-oop from Duncan to Bonneau put the Express up by an enormous 33 points. The teams exchanged threes and other baskets before the end, but Windsor would close out the quarter leading 94-63.

Heading into the final quarter, the fans were getting noisier and rowdier as their team was just 12 minutes away from making history. Through the speakers, DJ Thor played The Soca Boys’ “Follow the leader”. The choice of song was a statement, a statement that carried over into the remaining minutes of the season.

In the early going of the final quarter, the Storm came out to hit some three-pointers. They were led by Nick Okorie and Doug McKinney and decreased Windsor’s lead to 19 points. Later, as the game was down to just a few minutes, and after scoring one free throw, DeAndre Thomas tried his luck with a one-handed foul shot. The team was having fun, knowing what was waiting for them. With a minute remaining, the crowd rose to its feet in cheers and applause.

At the sound of the final buzzer, the Express stormed the court with big smiles, embracing the team and the victory.

The Windsor Express fought off the Island Storm 121-106 to become the 2014 NBL Canada Champions.

Stefan Bonneau was named the Most Valuable Player.

Coach Jones spoke highly of his team and what they had accomplished, putting it simply, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here.”

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