Moncton Magic, Saint John Riptide open playoffs at Avenir Centre
1st round of National Basketball League playoffs opens Friday when Moncton Magic take on Saint John Riptide
The Moncton Magic are two-thirds of the way to accomplishing their goals for this basketball season.
The Magic have won the Atlantic division in the National Basketball League, have the best overall record in the league with 27 wins and 13 losses, and on Friday night will hit the hardwood with a league championship in their sights.
"We've had a great season but we're not done yet," said head coach Joe Salerno during a shoot-around this week.
"We always talk about wanting to peak at the right time, and I think our team has done that, especially on the offensive side of the ball. We're been scoring at a better pace lately, and the guys are just playing with a lot of confidence."
HUGE CONGRATULATIONS!!!<br>Our HubCity Coach ~ Joe Salerno has won League Coach of the Year!!!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FeelTheMagic?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FeelTheMagic</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/HubCity?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#HubCity</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/4theChip?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#4theChip</a><a href="https://twitter.com/C103?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@C103</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/newcountry969?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@newcountry969</a> <a href="https://t.co/YY458wTwm3">pic.twitter.com/YY458wTwm3</a>—@TheMonctonMagic
Point guard Trey Kell credits Salerno and the coaching staff for the way his team has been playing.
"If we continue with the momentum we have I feel like we got a shot to win the series," he said of the upcoming best-of-five series against the Saint John Riptide.
1st season at Avenir Centre a success
This is the first season the Moncton Magic have played at the Avenir Centre, and there were fears the team would lose money in the new location.
The team slashed its projections from $644,682 to $310,897 when it had to move out of the Moncton Coliseum.
The City of Moncton agreed to cover up to $333,000 in financial losses if the Moncton Magic faced revenue declines during the first season at the city's new events centre.
Whether taxpayers will be on the hook for losses remains to be seen, but Salerno believes moving to the new arena has helped to increase the fan base.
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"It's a state of the art facility. I've been around the league a long time and it's by far the nicest venue in the league," he said.
With home court advantage, Kell hopes fans will continue to show up for this first round of the playoffs.
"The fans are coming more and more … so that's what you want as a team, and hopefully they fill it up even more for the series."
'You can't take a night off'
Salerno and his team are looking forward to the series with the Riptide, who finished the regular season second-to-last in the standings with a record of 17 wins and 23 losses.
Four of the five teams in the Atlantic division are in the playoffs.
Magic forward Brad States, who grew up in Bathurst, calls the Riptide "the best team with a losing record."
"They're definitely a dangerous team," he said. "You can't take a night off — you've got to come ready to play every night.
Salerno is also expecting an "extremely competitive series," with the Riptide.
"They're the top defensive team in the league so it's going to be a physical series," he said.
"They're going to have to earn everything but we're playing good basketball right now so I like where we're at."
With files from Francois LeBlanc and Shane Magee