The Halifax Rainmen put on a quite show for the biggest crowd in franchise history. But they waited for the final two minutes to do it.

With 6,781 in the Metro Centre courtesy of a promotion that gave away 10,000 free tickets, the Rainmen opened the Premier Basketball League pre-season with a 101-97 win over the Manchester Millrats on Saturday night.

But the Rainmen didn’t have a single lead until the final 80 seconds, when former NBA D-League point guard Gary Ervin slashed to the hoop for a layup and put his squad up 96-95. With the crowd roaring its approval, the Rainmen held on for the victory.

“We wanted to put a show together for the fans, make a good comeback,” said Rainmen swingman Desmond Ferguson, who played for the Millrats last year and had 18 points on 4-of-10 three-point shooting.

“We didn’t start off like we wanted to. It was our first exhibition game, There’s definitely a lot we want to improve on, but it was good to come back and get the win in front of the big crowd.”

Ervin, who came off the bench score 18 points, asserted himself as the Rainmen’s best point guard, fuelling the comeback with eight points in the final quarter. Returning shooting guard Tony Bennett was his electrifying self in a 26-point, five-assist outing.

Bennett drove to the hoop with 46 seconds remaining for a 98-95 lead and the Rainmen brought it home with free throws.

“We were rushing a lot,” said Ervin, of the Rainmen’s early struggles. “It was our first time on the court as a team, but at the end of the day, we dug deep the past couple of minutes and got the win.”

The Rainmen's previous best crowd was 4,343 for their franchise opener in 2007.

Ferguson said the Rainmen need to “concentrate on the defensive end and get some stops” going forward. They host the Quebec Kebs on Sunday at 2 p.m. and the Vermont Frost Heaves on Monday at 7 p.m.

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