Storm secure semi final spot with victory over Loughborough Riders

14/04/2024

Saturday 13th April
Hemel Storm 90 – 80 Loughborough Riders
NBL Division One, Playoff Quarter Final

Hemel Storm emerged victorious, claiming a 90-80 victory over sixth seed Loughborough Riders, in what was a tightly-fought contest throughout.

Despite injuries to key players Brayden Inger and Hakeem Sylla, Storm did not let this demoralise them which spurred the players on in front of a loud crowd at the StormDome. Storm were led by Taylor Johnson, achieving an impressive 27 points, alongside a Sam Newman double double.

The first quarter saw Storm slightly ahead in terms of the scoring, utilising the threat of former Leicester Rider Darien Nelson-Henry, who thrived in the paint. This frustrated Loughborough’s big men Keita and Ndoukou, who were keen to cause an upset on the road. The first quarter lead of 25-20 was trimmed by one, as Storm were winning 48-44 at half time.

The third quarter was slightly in favour of the Loughborough Riders, who came out of the half time break with nothing to lose, trimming the lead to just a single point by the end of the third, leaving many Storm fans nervous by the start of what was to be the last 10 minutes of one team’s season.

The home court advantage certainly worked in Storm’s favour as the fourth quarter progressed and the home faithful roared on their approval. It was a scrappy, tight final quarter with Storm’s dogged defence paying dividends, limiting the Riders to just 10 points. Despite top scorer Johnson fouling out midway through the fourth period, Storm’s game management was brilliant as each player worked for each other. This hard work earned Storm a deserved 90-80 victory, meaning Storm advance to the semi final of the playoffs.

The fixture pushed Storm fans through different emotions of nervousness, enjoyment and excitement as Storm delivered on the big occasion. Ultimately, it was the defence in the final quarter which proved decisive between the two teams.

From a Riders point of view, having been led by Elijah Bailey, registering 26 points to his name, they fought with Storm throughout. British Basketball veteran Harrison Gamble played his final game as he enters retirement. Gamble was a fantastic servant to British basketball, with notable contributions with both BBL Leicester Riders and Loughborough.

Take a look at all the game photos here.

As for Storm, the journey continues. A home tie against Bradford Dragons, who overcame 2nd seed Essex Rebels, awaits on Saturday 20th April in what looks to be a sell out. So avoid disappointment and secure your tickets for the biggest game this season using the link www.stormbasketball.net.

Written by Ollie Heathcote
Photos by Matt Cook

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