Call it a technical knockout of the Premier Basketball League’s heavyweight champions.

The Halifax Rainmen ended a three-game slump with a convincing 106-94 victory over the first-place Puerto Rico Capitanes in a physical, hard-fought Premier Basketball League affair before a record crowd of 4,966 at the Metro Centre yesterday.

A whopping nine technical fouls were called, but the Rainmen made the Capitanes pay on the last one, taking advantage of a late-game blowup from Andres Rodriguez to turn a five-point advantage into an 11-point lead with just 2:52 remaining.

“We wanted to test ourselves and see where we’re at in the league,” said Rainmen point guard Gary Ervin, who piled up a team-high 23 points.

“We knew we were a good ball club, we let three tough games slip away, and we just wanted to come home and play a great game.”

The Rainmen, who had lost their three previous games on the road and in overtime, outscored the Capitanes in all four quarters. Five players hit double-figures, with Tony Bennett hitting 17, Desmond Ferguson knocking down 15, Eric Crookshank 11 and newcomer Larry Turner 10.

“We needed that,” said Rainmen forward Marc Mazur, who hit a huge three-pointer with 3:40 to go.

“We’d gone from being a league leader to just fighting for a playoff spot. We looked at today as a playoff game. We can turn this thing right back around.”

The Rainmen, who are the worst free-throw shooting team in the league, knocked down a surprising 35-of-43 from the stripe, including 18-of-19 in the fourth quarter to remain unbeaten (8-0) at home.

“That was the biggest thing,” Ervin said. “Coach harped on it all week. Free throws, free throws, free throws and it showed today.”

Puerto Rico was assessed five of the nine technicals and was whistled 37 times to Halifax’s 22.

“We just didn’t think the game was getting called fair,” said Capitanes star Courtney Sims, who spent time in the NBA the past two seasons.

But Sims conceded that the key play of the game — when Rodriguez slammed the ball on the floor in disgust — was deserved.

“We can’t do that stuff no matter how bad we think the calls are,” he said.

Knocked off
With yesterday’s loss to the Halifax Rainmen, the Puerto Rico Capitanes have fallen out of first in the Premier Basketball League. The Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry improved to 15-2 yesterday with a 117-83 victory — their 12th straight — over the Rochester RazorSharks to move ahead of the Capitanes, 14-3. The third-place RazorSharks, meanwhile, fell to 12-4, while the Rainmen hold down fourth spot at 10-5, just ahead of the Vermont Frost Heaves, 9-7. The Cavalry and Capitanes have already clinched playoff spots.