Saturday 7th October
Loughborough Riders 92-87 Hemel Storm
NBL Division One
Saturday’s encounter saw Hemel Storm travel to Loughborough Riders for their first game of their NBL Division One campaign, looking to get their first win of the season and start the season off with a victory. However, Loughborough looked to start the campaign with a victory and protect their home court. After an intense affair which took the game down to the wire, Storm were unable to stop the energetic hosts and took their first defeat since 24th April 2022.
It was a new-look Storm team to last season’s quadruple winning side, with many new faces continuing to gel with each other. However, Loughborough were no strangers to Storm in their previous matchup, taking the NBL Division One Champions to overtime in which they lost, although deserving to win the game in full regulation. Storm needed to start fast and gain control of the matchup as quick as possible and stop the threat from the Riders.
It was a tight opening period of the game, with both teams exchanging baskets, whilst figuring out the strengths and weaknesses of respective sides. However, Loughborough looked to be the more energetic, constantly contesting for many rebounds and capitalising off defensive breakdowns from Storm. The way the ball was moved from the home side, swinging the ball in order to find the open shooter and using the pace of lethal guard Bailey was particularly impressive from Loughborough, as Storm needed to reply as quickly as possible. The early period of dominance was with the home side as they went into the first quarter break winning 25-21.
It was the worst possible start to the second quarter for Storm as Loughborough began to pull away extending the lead to 38-25 forcing Coach Mark Clark into a timeout. Prior to the timeout, Storm continued to lose out on vital rebounds, not capitalising on turnovers and allowing the best shooters from the Riders to have open shots. What was said during this timeout definitely looked to have woken up Storm, as they reduced the 13 point lead to 4 by the end of the half. It was the best basketball Storm had played, showing urgency and a sense of fight to want to win the game. It was a much better end to the half which provided hope to the travelling supporters that Storm could be able to gain the victory.
Once again Storm were slow to start the second half, allowing the Riders to open shots, which swiftly gave the home side an 11 point lead, forcing Storm into a timeout with only 3 minutes played in the second half. Things did not look promising for the away side. However, Storm continued to battle to reduce the lead, just as they did at the end of the first half. They did so successfully, as by the end of the 3rd quarter, the Riders only led 65-63. Storm looked really promising in the final stages of the third period, moving the ball well and taking good percentage shots. It was all to play for in the last quarter, as Storm needed to maintain focus and stay solid to stop the Riders from scoring as much, and execute their offensive plays.
The opening moments of the last quarter saw both teams trading buckets, as they did in the first quarter. The game was to go either way as both team shot reasonably well and did not want to give away possession. However, Storm quickly got into foul trouble which was to result in two free throws after the fifth team foul, which did not benefit them at all. Storm threw everything they had at Loughborough, but unfortunately were not able to come away with the victory, losing 92-87.
It was a tough loss to take for Hemel Storm, as the pressure of maintaining an unbeaten streak has now been removed from the team. Although there were moments of promise and fight, it was always going to be tough against the Riders on their home court. Taking nothing away from the home side, they thoroughly deserved the victory, with a pleasing performance as a whole team. This game is a building block for Storm, who need to regroup and work even harder for their long trip up north to face Team Newcastle University on Saturday 14th October. Overall, a disappointing result but a learning experience to improve upon for the team.
Top Scorers: Hakeem Sylla: 24 pts, Seth Swalve: 18 pts, Brayden Inger, Tez Allen: 15 pts
Storm return to home action on Saturday 21st October at 7pm when they welcome Worthing Thunder. This is always a great showdown so make sure you book your tickets now online at www.stormbasketball.net
Written by Ollie Heathcote