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Moncton Magic’s Zeke Marshall and Halifax Hurricanes’ Joel Kindred scramble for the loose ball late in the second quarter Thursday.
Moncton Magic’s Zeke Marshall and Halifax Hurricanes’ Joel Kindred scramble for the loose ball late in the second quarter Thursday. - Eric Wynne

Magic shake off sluggish start en route to 121-94 win

It was a tough opening night for the Halifax Hurricanes and fans of Billy White.

The Moncton Magic, after getting their bearings following a sluggish first quarter, outscored the Hurricanes 72-46 over the next 24 minutes and cruised to a 121-94 victory over the Hurricanes in the NBL Canada season opener Thursday night at the Scotiabank Centre.

But it wasn't all good news for the Magic. White, who was making his Moncton debut after three seasons with the Hurricanes, sprained his right ankle after scoring the first basket of the second half. The six-foot-nine forward fell awkwardly after hitting his jump shot and had to be assisted off the court. He later returned to the Magic bench trying not to put any weight on his right leg.

"We knew this was a big game for Billy," said Magic guard Corey Allmond, who led all scorers with 29 points. "He's a big key to our success so when he went down, a lot of guys stepped up and rallied around him. That's how this team in built. If somebody goes down, it's next man up.

"There's a lot of hype around our team so we wanted to make a statement and send a message to not only Halifax but the rest of the league. We're real and we're going to bring it every night.”

East Preston's Gentrey Thomas, in his NBL Canada debut, came off the Moncton bench to score 21 points. White had 15 points in 18 minutes of action.

Joel Kindred, another newcomer in this league, paced the Hurricanes with 27 points. Rookies Kedar Edwards and Malcolm Duvivier had 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Allmond, long a thorn in the side of the Hurricanes, drained five three-pointers and was 8-for-8 from the free throw line. In the Magic's last regular-season matchup in Halifax, Allmond connected on nine treys and scored 34 points in a 107-95 victory.

Allmond had eight points as Moncton went on a 26-10 run to start the fourth before he took a seat on the bench with 3:28 left in the game.

"I love competing and I love competing in this arena," said the 30-year-old Allmond, an NBL Canada veteran who's in his second season with the Magic. "But it doesn't matter what arena. If there's a basketball out there, I'm going to play hard and try to help this team win some games."

The Hurricanes led by as much as nine in the first quarter and held a 27-23 advantage after 12 minutes.

But Moncton went on a 26-13 run to take a four-point lead at the half and outscored Halifax 36-18 in the third quarter.

"I think our slow start was more first-game jitters," Allmond said. "There are a lot of new guys, a lot of new faces. Once we got those out of the way in the first quarter, we got down to business."

One of those new faces is Thomas, a six-foot-four combo guard who played NCAA Division 1 hoops at the University of California at Riverside.

The former Auburn Drive high school and Orangeville (Ont.) Prep standout scored 15 points in increased time in the second half, highlighted by back-to-back monster slams late in the fourth quarter which sent his own cheering section into a frenzy.

"That young fella was wild," Allmond said of Thomas. "He's a rookie and he has a lot to learn. But once he settles down and learns, he's going to be a heck of a guard in this league."

Kindred's NBL Canada career got off to a flying start. The six-foot-four guard hit his first four shots, capped off by a spectacular alley-oop from Cliff Clinkscales. He closed the quarter when he sunk a teardrop as he was falling and drew the foul. He drained the free throw to give him 14 points in the opening frame.

"I love the crowd here, it's an amazing environment," said the Raleigh, N.C., native, who had 20 points at the half. "It was a lot of fun playing in front of them.

"We'll just have to put things together and come back next time and get the win. It's a new group of guys and we haven't had a lot of time to gel. Once we mesh together, we'll have it figured it out and we'll be all right."

The teams will reacquaint themselves Saturday when the Hurricanes visit Moncton.

The Cape Breton Highlanders open their 2018-19 campaign on the road Friday when they take on the Island Storm in Charlottetown.

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