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Thursday April 16th, 2015

Posted at 10:06am

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Three days removed from a gruelling seven-game comeback series win over Brampton, the Express were fired up to return to the NBL Finals for the second straight year. Wednesday night, the Halifax Rainmen put up a fight, but the Express weren’t about to let the momentum slip away. In a game that would set the tone for the series, Windsor defeated Halifax in Game One action at the WFCU Centre.

Chris Commons’ 33-point night fuelled the Express in their win. Tony Bennett put up 25 points and Quinnel Brown added 22 points.

Though the highlight of the first quarter could’ve been Windsor’s assistant coach Aaron MacDonald running onto the court to grab a toddler that had wandered on, the Express themselves were running up and down, and controlling the game. DeAndre Thomas opened the scoring, with Chris Commons and Quinnel Brown adding three-pointers a little later. Offensively, the plays were well-executed. Defensively, the wall was up. The Windsor players forced bad shots with their pressure and it was working. Halifax was able to hit three three-point shots in the last few minutes of the quarter, but the Express were on top 28-22 after one.

Windsor was back at it after the break, scoring the second quarter’s first seven points. Ryan Anderson sank a pair of threes to give his team a 15-point lead over the visitors. However, Halifax was proving to be tougher than expected. The Rainmen kept up with the Express, and were catching up quick. In just under six minutes, the Rainmen cut the lead to only four points, outscoring Windsor 21-10. Tony Bennett made sure that the Express ended the quarter on a high note and scored a three-pointer to carry a 58-51 lead into halftime.

Like he did in the first half, Thomas kicked off the scoring in the second. Soon, tough, the Rainmen put up a flurry of points to take over. Windsor was making simple mistakes and turning over the ball, and Halifax took advantage. The Express slowly got back on track when Commons hit a three-pointer to break a tie and regain control for his team. Baskets at both ends kept the game close, but Windsor was up 80-77 with a quarter to go.

In the fourth, Commons ensured the Express wouldn’t go down again. He hit an early three, followed by another quick basket to set the pace for the fourth. The Rainmen countered as Clifford Clinkscales hit back-to-back three-pointers. After exchanging baskets and keeping the game relatively close, the Rainmen had a big hole to fill. As Kirk Williams Jr. got the ball down low, he faked going up, and instead crouched as Liam McMorrow jumped to block. The 7’2” Halifax player’s legs caught Williams Jr., sending him to the floor flat on his back. McMorrow fell with a thud, and was taken off the court on a stretcher. Though missing a huge piece, the Rainmen were able to tie the game with less than five minutes left. Energy and drive kicked in for the Express; the team had a little more push. Anderson hit a three-pointer to break the tie. Soon after, Williams Jr. forced a steal, and Jamarcus Ellis made a sweet spin move around the defender before hitting a jumper. Halifax stayed within striking range though, hitting a late three-point shot. That was until Commons faked a three and went in for the dunk. Windsor free throws put the game away as the Express went on to win 113-104 over the Halifax Rainmen.

Game Two is set for this Friday, April 17th at 7pm at the WFCU Centre.

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