The Windsor Express missed an opportunity far bigger than two points on Monday.
A crowd of 4,136 at the WFCU Centre was the largest in years to see the Express play thanks to free admission courtesy of several local unions and community groups.
“We talked about how we had a big game, playing against a team ahead of us, we had a big crowd and let’s do big things,” Express head coach Bill Jones said.
The Express were hoping to turn some of those one-day fans into long-terms followers and the club did manage to bring people out of their seats by rallying from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to take a five-point lead with 85 seconds to play in the four quarter.
However, Windsor was not able to close the deal with Sudbury rallying to take the game 116-114.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Express guard Kemy Osse said. “I wish it could be like that every game. We’re professionals and that’s what we like. I feel like, when you’ve got a crowd like that behind you, it pushes you to play harder. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it done. It was a great atmosphere and we gave it away.”
There’s still time left in the season for the Express to recover in the standings, but it’s hard to say if the performance was enough to bring people back.
“It’s kind of like, in a sense, a loss,” Express forward Quinnel Brown said. “We have these fans here, you want to get a win. You get a crowd like this, you don’t win (and) statistically half of them aren’t coming back. I think (Monday) was big.”
Jones will continue pushing ahead. With veteran guard Ryan Anderson sidelined by a pectoral injury, the club brought back former forward Chris Commons and activated guard and leading Chris Jones, who had been suspended by the team.
“We just have to get him to stay the path,” Jones said of his guard. “(Commons) has some rust. He hasn’t played competitive in five-to-six months, but he’ll help us on the court.
“We bring Quinnel and Chris Commons back as part of our (former) championship (teams) to bring culture. To get the refuse to lose mentality we had. They hated to lose more than they enjoyed winning and that’s what we have to be able to get.”
Brown finished with a team-leading 23 points while Jones came off the bench to finish with 19 points along with Osse, who also had 11 rebounds.
Alex Johnson added 17 points for the Express (7-9) while Sam Muldrow had 15 points and Kirk Williams Jr. 10 points against the Five (10-6).
“That (Sudbury) team, they had that hunger,” Jones said. “We have to be able to create that. How do you turn the light on and keep it illuminated for 48 minutes?
“We have all the pieces, but we have to put all that together and I believe we’ll figure it out.”