Hemel Storm 87 v 81 Manchester Magic / Hemel Storm 64 v 72 Bradford Dragons
(National League Division One)
A stunning come-back in the fourth quarter led by an inspired individual performance from Hemel Storm's seven foot centre Lee Greenan turned a nine point deficit into an 87 - 81 victory against Manchester Magic in front of a capacity crowd at Sportspace on Saturday.
Greenan started the final period and with his team trailing 71 - 62 dominated the session making an immediate impact scoring inside Manchester's defence, grabbing rebounds and helping to protect Hemel’s basket in a National League Division One game.
Greenan’s teammates who started the crucial fourth stanza with him – AJ Roberts, Bode Adeluola, Wayne Yeboah and Walid Mumuni - took their cue from the big man’s outstanding play and gradually overhauled Manchester. They combined to force their opponents into ball-handling mistakes and pressured shots holding them to just 12 points in the quarter while sinking 25 of their own.
When Vanarama-sponsored Storm’s AJ Roberts calmly scored two free-throws followed by a powerful Greenan inside score and a three-pointer from Adeluola – all without reply – Hemel overtook Manchester to go ahead 81 – 75 and with three minutes left they were able to control the game to the final buzzer for a gutsy victory.
Storm Coach Robert Youngblood said he was delighted with the terrific response that he got from Greenan: “When Lee performs like he did in that fourth quarter I really believe we become unstoppable.
“But it takes a team to get the job done and I was really pleased that after not taking care of the ball very well in the first half (nine turnovers), in the second we were excellent and cut those mistakes down to just three.
“And our team defence was terrific in the fourth period and was obviously the key to our win. We just wore Manchester down. To hold a team of their calibre to five field goals in a quarter took a special effort.”
And the Coach also noted that Storm was almost perfect from the free-throw line nailing all but one of their 24 attempts which is their highest percentage success rate of the season.
The win completed the League double over the Magic who Storm also defeated 94 - 77 in the National Cup Final last month. In the Final Storm’s AJ Roberts was voted MVP and his sensational performance that day meant that on Saturday he was targeted by Manchester’s defence.
But the guard rose to the challenge and once again top-scored for Hemel with 22 points, he also grabbed 11 rebounds and made six assists in an all-round impressive performance under pressure.
In a fiercely competitive clash the visitors jumped to an early 12 – 2 lead but as the first period was closing Hemel’s Tom Adorian sank a jump-shot and knotted the scores at 17 apiece before Manchester’s American guard Donte Gittens gave his team a 19 – 17 edge at the buzzer.
The teams swapped baskets throughout the second quarter before free-throws from Yeboah and a Mike Darlow steal, lay-up and free-throw put daylight between them with Storm ahead 46 – 43 at the break.
But after the interval Hemel’s lead was soon extinguished as a 15 – 4 run by the Magic gave them a 60 – 52 advantage. The visitors maintained the margin and the third quarter ended with them 69 – 62 ahead.
When Magic’s Hamad Ali opened the final stanza with a mid-range shot to put his team nine points in front things looked bleak for Storm but the score-line seemed to trigger a determined all-or-nothing fight-back and as the final seconds ticked off the clock the Hemel players were given a standing ovation by the fans.
Hopes of Hemel moving up the table were dashed, however, on Sunday after they lost away to Bradford Dragons. Storm let an early double digit lead slip and Dragons took advantage of a misfiring Hemel offence in the second half, including a 19 – 6 third period, to run out 72 – 64 winners.
Storm stay sixth in the table with five games left and are still in the hunt for a berth in the top eight end-of-season Championship Play-Offs
The Sky Sports cameras were at Sportspace on Saturday to interview Club volunteers and Hemel MP Sir Mike Penning about the controversy recently debated in Parliament over the withdrawal of lottery funding for GB national teams and its potential impact on the sport generally. Basketball is now the third biggest team sport in the UK behind soccer and cricket.
Team and scorers: v Manchester: AJ Roberts 22, Bode Adeluola 16, Wayne Yeboah 14, Lee Greenan 13 (and 10 rebounds), Tom Adorian 10, Mike Darlow 8, Courtney Van-Beest 2, Walid Mumuni 2, Ladi Brown, Chuck Duru, Jack Burnell, Dave Ajumobi.
Team and scorers: v Bradford: AJ Roberts 18, Bode Adeluola 15, Lee Greenan 9, Tom Adorian 6, Ladi Brown 4, Dave Ajumobi 4, Mike Darlow 2, Jack Burnell 2, Courtney Van-Beest 2, Walid Mumuni 2, Wayne Yeboah, Chuck Duru.
Storm are at Sportspace this Saturday (3rd March) against Derby Trailblazers, tip-off 7pm. For tickets go to the 'tickets & shop' drop down menu above.
Top right: Lee Greenan – Storm big man’s ‘inspired performance’ (photo Graham Hodges)
Left: AJ Roberts – Storm’s top-scorer with 22 points (photo Lin Titmuss)