SAINT JOHN, N.B. – The Saint John Mill Rats fought hard but lost to the Halifax Rainmen, 95-89 in front of 3,284 fans at Harbour Station during their only home preseason game.
In the first quarter, both teams fought hard, finishing 16-16. Brandon Robinson of the Halifax Rainmen scored 10 points, while the Mill Rats Anthony Anderson netted 8.
The Rainmen pulled ahead during the second quarter with huge plays from former London Lightning star Eddie Smith and Hillary Hailey. With 5:07 left on the clock, the Rainmen held a ten-point lead. The Mill Rats were able to battle back with some key shots from Jerice Crouch and PJ Young to narrow the gap 39-37 and still held the lead before half.
The Mill Rats sprang to life in the third quarter, clawing back and drawing fouls, putting Anderson and Jerice Crouch on the line, who made 4-4 and 3-4, respectively. The Mill Rats closed the third leading 68-70.
The Rainmen pulled ahead in the fourth with help from 6'11 centre Paul Nelson, who netted six baskets and made 4-4 from the line. With two minutes left, the Mill Rats narrowed the Rainmen's lead to 90-87 after a three point 'and one' play from Young.
The Mill Rats tried to narrow the Rainmen's lead but couldn't close the three-point gap. A huge turnover in the last 20 seconds gave the Rainmen the five-point edge they needed to seal the win.
Leading scorers for the Mill Rats were Young and Anderson with an incredible 23 points each, while new to the training camp roster, Crouch added 17.
The Halifax Rainmen’s leading scorer was Eddie Smith with 21, while Brandon Robinson netted 15 and Paul Nelson added 13.
Head coach for the Saint John Mill Rats, David Cooper, was impressed by the hard work the Mill Rats put forth: "I believe we played hard. I feel pretty good about our team. There are a few things we need to clean up that will make a big difference in the overall outcome of the game. I believe Halifax played well. They executed and they have great players that made great plays. They are well coached."
When asked what he thinks the Mill Rats will bring to the court for their first home game, he said, "I'm pumped about Nov. 3. I feel like we will have a little more time to bring our core guys together and build a strong foundation for the rest of the season.”
The Mill Rats’ season opener on Saturday, Nov. 3, takes place at Harbour Station against the Laval Kebs at 7 p.m.