(Charlottetown, PE): The Saint John Mill Rats season came to a heartbreaking end on Thursday as Mike Williams nailed a shot at the buzzer that propelled the Island Storm to the Atlantic Division Championship series, 103-102.
The winner-take-all Game 5 at the Eastlink Centre was as advertised and every fan in the building and watching online got their money's worth for sure.
Saint John had mounted a heroic comeback from a 19-point second quarter deficit to take a 100-94 lead with 1:08 remaining in the game on a deep three pointer by Anthony Anderson. The Mill Rats trailed 92-82 with 5:57remaining and posted an incredible 15-0 run to take a 97-92 lead. After Rashad Whack hit two free throws for the Storm, it was Anderson's turn to drain his 28th point of the night. And then things began to unravel.
Mike Williams was fouled and missed both free throws, but got his own rebound and was fouled again with 53 seconds left. He again missed the first but made the second to bring the Island within 100-95.
Ricky Volcy then threw away the inbounds pass and Darin Mency fouled Rashad Whack, sending him to the line with only a few precious ticks off the clock. Whack hit both to make the score 100-97 with 50.9 seconds left.
Raheem Singleton was trapped on the ensuing inbounds and was whistled for a 5 second count, turning the ball back over to PEI. Mike Williams scored on a quick play under the basket and the Mill Rats lead was down to 100-99 with 45 seconds remaining. But because it was just Saint John's 6th foul they were not awarded free throws. Anderson was forced into a tough, contested three pointer to try and beat the shot clock which missed, and the Storm were off to the races. Billy Rush hit a finger roll after an offensive rebound with 12 seconds to go and the Storm took a 101-100 lead.
After a timeout, the Mill Rats' Ricky Volcy hit a tough fadeaway jumper with 7 seconds left to appear to give the Mill Rats the win, but the Storm inbounded right away, without taking a timeout, and Brandon Robinson found Mike Williams open down court. He drained a 15' jumper at the buzzer to win the game for the Island Storm, and end the season for the Mill Rats.
Saint John was led by Anthony Anderson and Kenny Jones with 28 points a piece. Nick Okorie led the Island with 26.
Ian McCarthy, Mill Rats President & General Manger said after the loss: "I am extremely proud of the way our team did not quit after being down 19 points in a hostile environment on the road, with so much at stake. While there were mistakes down the stretch, basketball is sometimes a game of seconds and inches, and tonight the ball bounced just right for the Storm steal the game back from us."
"I know the fans in PEI and Saint John saw some of the best basketball in the world being played outside the NBA this series and this season. It was an incredible series and an incredible Game 5."
"The NBL Canada is an incredibly competitive league and that's what makes it so great. We are committed to putting a great team on the court each and every season in Saint John. I certainly take all the blame for the early season failures we had, and we learned the importance of being consistent all year to gain that critical home court advantage."
"We would like to thank all of our fans, sponsors, staff, partners, and supporters, and players for some truly awesome moments this season. As well as congratulate the Island Storm on earning a trip to the Atlantic Division Championship series again this season."
There will be a fan event to say goodbye to the players on Monday night at 6pm at Jungle Jims on Prince William Street.