Storm beat league leaders with buzzer beater from Eze!

11/03/2024

Saturday 9th March
Hemel Storm 102-101 Derby Trailblazers
NBL Division One

Hemel Storm defeated league leaders Derby Trailblazers 102-101 in the most spectacular fashion on Saturday night, with a Veron Eze buzzer beater sending the StormDome into pandemonium.

After Storm had blown a game high 19 point lead, and Hakeem Sylla sustained an injury in the third quarter, Storm left it until the last 0.9 seconds to keep any hope of a back-to-back league title alive.

Derby were quick to start the scoring, with an early 0-10 run to start the scoring. Backed by a large travelling, the Trailblazers fans voiced their approval as their energy had translated onto the court. However, Storm were swift to kick into gear after Coach Clark called a timeout with a 30-11 run to end the proceedings of the first quarter. It was a tenacious, energetic defensive display from the home side, who were able to capitalise and force turnovers, whilst shooting exceptionally from both inside and outside the three point arc. The score was in Storm’s favour as they led 30-21 going into the second quarter.

The energy inside the StormDome felt as if the teams were level however Storm had extended their lead to a game high of 19 points. With the Storm crowd creating a raucous atmosphere, momentum was fully in Storm’s favour as the home side began to stamp their authority on the encounter. Each player was working incredibly hard for each other to protect their home court, as a high-quality performance continued; potentially one of the best this season. However, a 0-11 run to end the second quarter reduced the deficit to single figures as both teams went into the half time break with Storm leading 53-45.

The third quarter was incredibly tight as both teams were itching to turn the game in their favour. It was a high-tempo, interesting and pleasing to watch as a neutral. However, both sets of fans continued to urge on their teams as the players continued to battle it out on court. Storm were smart, limiting the Trailblazers to tough shots with the away side continuing to claw back the Storm lead. An injury to key man Hakeem Sylla may have worried many Storm fans, as both teams went into the final quarter with Storm in an 80-68 lead.

It was shaping up to be a blockbuster ending; a game for the ages. Little did both sets of supporters know what was to come in this intense quarter of basketball. The Trailblazers came out with nothing to lose as they kept the scoreboard ticking over, applying pressure to the Storm outfit. However, Storm remained calm and continued to keep Derby at arms length in terms of the scoring. With 5:35 left to play, the Trailblazers finally retook the lead with a three pointer from Corey Johnson. It was to get even better for the away side as a May-Thompson layup extended the lead to 8 points with 3:49 left to play. However, Storm remained resilient with the game still a competitive one. Sam Newman had scored a layup with 2.3 seconds left to play, as Storm trailed by a single point. What was to come was something of a miracle.

Storm committed an expected foul with 1.6 left to play. But an offensive foul off the resulting inbound led to a Storm possession. Newman threw up the alley-oop to Johnson, with the clock started as soon as the American guard caught it. The ball was deflected by Charlie Brown with the game clock expiring.  With 0.9 seconds left to play it was now or never for Storm.  Sam Newman inbounded the ball to Veron Eze. Eze caught the ball and put the shot up. Rolling around the rim, the crowd held its breath. The shot had landed, lifting the roof off the StormDome and sending the Storm crowd into raptures. Storm won the game 102-101 in the most dramatic of circumstances.

In terms of drama, this fixture ticked all the boxes as a fantastic narrative was formed, and a great advert for NBL basketball once again being created. Both sets of supporters backed their teams until the final buzzer, creating a great atmosphere.  However, Storm took a crucial victory in terms of keeping their title hopes alive. With Storm needing a win the following day on the road against a tough Reading Rockets, would Storm be able to secure the back-to-back victories to end a weekend filled with entertainment?

Relive the game in photos courtesey of Matt Cook here.

Written by Ollie Heathcote
Photo by Matt Cook

 

 

 

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