Surge start slow, look to turn CEBL season around with string of home wins

Next five tilts for Calgary club at WinSport, beginning with Wednesday’s work-night against Saskatchewan Rattlers

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They say home is where the heart is.

The Calgary Surge are hoping it’s where the wins are, as well.

After an ugly start to the season, the aim is to use the next five games — all at WinSport Event Centre — to stave off more heart-break in what’s amounted to a winless 2024 Canadian Elite Basketball League season so far.

“The 0-3 record sounds bad,” said Surge leader Sean Miller-Moore of the lousy regular-schedule results so far for his side.

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“Hopefully we can get all these ones at home, because it’s harder to play on the road,” continued Miller-Moore. “The home thing is big. But at the end of the day, every team is good, so whether it’s a home game or an away game, we have to treat each one with respect.

“It’s just trying to take it one game at a time and go from there.”

The first one goes Wednesday at WinSport, when the Surge (0-3) square off against the Saskatchewan Rattlers (3-1) for an evening tilt (7 p.m.).

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They then follow with a host of the Vancouver Bandits (3-1) on Friday night (7 p.m.) and the Winnipeg Sea Bears (2-1) on Sunday afternoon (2 p.m.).

And next week, it’s two more on home court — versus the Edmonton Stingers on Friday, June 14 (7 p.m.), and against the Brampton Honey Badgers two days later on Father’s Day (3 p.m.) — to round out a run of seven of their first eight games at home.

“I like WinSport,” said guard Miller-Moore, with a grin. “WinSport’s very loud. All the fans there are very much engaged with basketball.

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“And when we’re rolling, they’re super loud and supportive there.”

With a front-loaded schedule like that, it’s certainly important to get on a roll …

Especially given the tough start.

“It’s different,” said Surge head coach Tyrell Vernon, of the strange schedule. “I’m not going to say whether it’s good or bad. Sometimes it’s just the way the league goes with travel and everything else.

“But we’ve got to be prepared for it all and adapt to anything that gets thrown at us.”

So far, maybe not so good in that respect.

The Surge opened with a gala event in a one-off at Scotiabank Saddledome that drew all kinds of eyeballs — more than 12,000 fans in the stands and nationally televised on TSN — but it ended with a 97-79 loss to the Stingers.

Then they returned to WinSport — a first look at their usual home for the many fresh faces on the club — and dropped a 104-97 nail-biter to the reigning champion Scarborough Shooting Stars.

And after that, the Surge went on the road for an away game, getting handed a 100-74 defeat by the host Bandits.

So they’ve had a lot thrown at them — in different places.

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“It’s definitely challenging,” said Miller-Moore. “But like any other basketball team, you’re not going to have it your way. Obviously, we’d want to play in the same spot all the time and practise in your home arena all the time.

“But definitely lots of time and definitely lots of games to bounce back yet,” continued Miller-Moore. “And at home, obviously the crowd is going to be on your side to give you an extra boost. The crowd is a plus for us always at WinSport, so that should play in our favour.”

“The more we can get to be at WinSport, the more comfortable we’ll feel that this is actually our home court,” agreed Vernon. “But for us, it’s more so just be prepared to play for the 40 minutes. Mentally and physically, we’ve got to be locking into what we’re trying to take away and eliminating all noise. We’ve just go to get better every day and focus on winning every possession — and that’s all we can control.”

It doesn’t help that only three players return from last year’s team that made it to the CEBL final.

And even then, star guard Stef Smith has yet to make his way to Calgary after an extended stay with his team in France.

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“Yeah … there’s a little bit of guys coming from all over, so we’re trying to figure each other out,” Vernon said. “What are our can and can’ts? What are we capable of on the defensive end? What are we capable of on the offensive end?”

In particular, says the coach, is becoming more capable in getting back to defend more quickly.

“I think what’s been the theme for us every single game is getting back to transition defence. When we get into our half-court defence, that builds out what we’ve been teaching, but if we can’t get back after a turnover or after a missed or made shot to build our defence, that hurts us.

“We’ve been giving up a lot of points because of that, and it’s put a lot of pressure on us.”

Miller-Moore further narrows that down to finding a way to be on the same page during play.

“I feel like our communication can get better in terms of just talking to each other on the court and trusting each other,” added Miller-Moore. “I feel like lots of it has to do with trust — it’s sacrificing on offence and defence. We’ve got to lock in on the details.

“But we’ll get better for sure.”

Hopefully at home in the next handful of games.

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