Storm cruise past Elite to kick off 2024!

14/01/2024

Saturday 13th January
London Elite 59 – 113 Hemel Storm
NBL Division One

Hemel Storm claimed a convincing 54 point win, as they returned to action after the Christmas break with a 113-59 point victory in the capital against London Elite. The win takes them to 8-3, and helps them to keep the pressure on the sides above them as they stay in 4th, with a game in hand on those above them. 

12th placed Elite held their own against Storm in the early stages, as despite a strong start from Hakeem Sylla, who claimed a series of offensive rebounds, Storm failed to support their fast scoring start with any reasonable level of resistance on the defensive side of the court. Offensive execution looked promising for the visitors, but they seemed too content to trade buckets with their hosts until Mark Clark used his rotations to great effect to establish a foothold in the tie. Birthday boy Jack Burnell combined his sharp-shooting with a hustling effort on defence, hitting a trio of early long-range efforts and claiming a number of steals to help his side edge away, and end the first quarter 8 points in the ascendancy; 25-17 the score. 

Storm headed into the evening expecting a battle, but they came equipped with an athletic roster showing they were happy to engage in the fight. The ever-energetic Matt Disu came off the bench to provide enthusiasm, grit on defence and a star power on offence, while the dependable Hakeem Sylla dominated inside, pulling down rebounds and battling hard to nullify the threat of a physical Elite challenge. The gulf in quality between the sides was starting to show, and 3 and a half minutes into the second period the lead was stretched to 15, as Storm upped the defensive intensity to match their impressive offensive start. Storm’s shooting showed no signs of any new year hangovers, with American Seth Swalve proving a tough task for the Elite defence to handle with his precision, inside and outside of the arc. The home side continued to fight in front of their fans, but headed into the locker room trailing 59-40. 

The second half started sloppily on both sides, with Storm not executing their plays as they would have discussed during the break. However, after a fiery timeout from Coach Clark provided a needed wake-up call to his side who weren’t just going to ease over the finishing line, it was an inspired Brayden Inger who led his team in fine fashion, finishing effortlessly inside and out to further extend the lead and ensure a comfortable close to the game. Guard Sam Newman continued where he left off after a standout 2023, hitting important shots and controlling the tempo of the game effectively and the third quarter ended 88-48 in favour of the visitors, allowing their hosts just 8 points while helping themselves to 27 in a period of ruthless basketball all over the court. 

Storm, to a man, were superb and had no interest in allowing their opponents back into the game. Clark was allowed to rotate and give out game time to the whole squad, while ensuring the foot was never taken off the pedal, with the starting 5 constantly summoned to secure a statement victory. Inger continued to bombard Elite, with a barrage of three point efforts and a ragged looking defensive display from the home side suggested they were hoping to get off the court as soon as possible. An outstanding offensive display saw Storm reach three figures with 5 minutes still to play, eventually ending with 113 against Elite’s 59 to claim a comprehensive victory to set up the hopes of the new year nicely. 

A routine victory over an Elite side facing a struggle to avoid relegation, but who have caused some issues for top teams this year, and Storm can take comfort that they were never in danger, not allowing the home side a sniff of optimism that may have rallied them.

Next up for Storm, is a home game against third placed Loughborough Riders who defeated them in the first league game of the campaign, and is an important benchmark as Storm head into a spell of crunch fixtures against top sides, which will go a long way in determining their ambitions and success this season. Storm know they still have a chance of league glory again this year, but if they are to achieve anything they must compete with the top sides, starting next week against the Riders. Tip-off is at 7pm on Saturday at the StormDome; tickets are available at www.stormbasketball.net

Written by Callum Humphrey
Photos by TGD Visuals

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