When the Halifax Rainmen hit the floor at the Metro Centre Friday, the stakes will be high.
“Biggest game as a Rainman,” said forward Eric Crookshank, who has been around since Day 1. “By far.”
The Rainmen are hosting the Vermont Frost Heaves at 7 p.m. in a matchup that could ultimately make or break their bid to qualify for the Premier Basketball League playoffs.
Although the season began just seven weeks ago, the Rainmen (8-6) only have six games left on their schedule. Catching the Manchester Millrats (10-3) for the Atlantic Conference lead is unlikely, but a wild-card spot is still up for grabs, and the Frost Heaves (7-6) are fighting for it, too.
“There’s not a lot of room for bad play,” said Rainmen head coach Les Berry. “We’ve got to step up our game.
“Vermont’s going to give us their best game and if we’re not prepared, they can put us on the other end of the scale.”
The Rainmen are looking for redemption after losing to the basement-dwelling Quebec Kebs on Sunday. They scored just 78 points — the second lowest single-game total in the PBL this year — and their effort was underwhelming.
“We were thinking more than we were playing,” Crookshank said.
Berry said they spent the week in practice working six-foot-nine newcomer A.J. Millien into the offence. Millien, who signed last Friday, leads the PBL in scoring and will help the Rainmen establish more of a presence down low.
The Rainmen have gone 4-for-30 from three-point range in the first halves of the past two games. Berry wants more balance in his offence, meaning Millien, Crookshank, David Bailey and John Strickland will need to step up in the paint.
“We can’t just run around on the perimeter taking a lot of jump shots, especially in the first half, especially when you’re not making them,” Berry said.
“We’ve addressed it this week and, hopefully, it gives us a little spark.”
Crookshank said the Rainmen are driven to make the playoffs.
“It would be big for this city,” he said. “The city wants a team to root for. The Mooseheads aren’t doing well and it would be big for us to win a championship this year.”