Saturday 15th April, NBL Division One Playoff Semi Final: Hemel Storm Team 89-86 Reading Rockets
Saturday’s game saw Vanarama-sponsored Hemel Storm face Reading Rockets in the Playoff Semi Final. This game had a spot in the Playoff Final up for grabs, as a sold out StormDome watched what was sure to be a fantastic game.
The first quarter started with Storm in the ascendancy, taking an early 11-4 lead. This was swiftly responded to by the heavily improved Rockets team bringing the lead back to within one possession. Storm had to control the game in front of their home fans, using the aerial threat of Hakeem Sylla to score inside the paint. Storm took a 26-19 lead going into the second quarter, meaning that the game was still in the balance.
The Rockets started the second quarter exceptionally, going on a 0-12 run before Storm could get a point on the board for the quarter. In this period, Coach Spinks was forced into a timeout to refocus the minds of the Storm players. The response was much better from Storm who were able to retake the lead and begin to express their dominance. The two teams were barely separated, with Storm taking a 52-51 lead going into the half time break.
One thing that the Rockets were able to do successfully in the first half was to stop league MVP candidate Aaryn Rai from scoring a single point. This statistic was quickly removed as he scored a three pointer to start the third quarter. From that point on, both teams were cancelling each other out with amazing defence as well as many turnovers and missed shots. It was a bad quarter for Storm as Rockets took the lead going into the final quarter winning 66-68.
The fourth quarter was the biggest quarter of the season for both teams, who were able to stay within reach of the place in the final. Impressive hustle and desire from Charles Acquah-Davis gave Storm the lead, much to the delight of the vociferous crowd. Storm took an 8 point lead with 5:15 left, forcing a timeout from Coach Nuruzade. Within a minute after, the lead was decreased back to 2, swinging the momentum in Reading’s favour. However, a turnover from Reading saw Sam Newman dunk the ball home, further increasing the volume of the Stormdome. With seconds left, a three point lead and possession in Storm’s favour, it looked like Reading were going to foul to put Rai on the free throw line. He spilled the ball out of bounds giving Reading a last possession. As the game clock expired, a three pointer from Jenkins hit the rim and was rebounded by Aaryn Rai. This gave Storm an 89-86 victory, continuing their quest to go a whole season unbeaten.
Despite this not being one of Storm’s best performances, it was a thrilling game. A massive credit goes to both sets of supporters who joined together to create a lively atmosphere; one of the loudest that there has been in the StormDome this season. Storm now face Worthing Thunder on Sunday 23rd April, 15:30 tip at the National Basketball Performance Centre, Manchester in the Playoff Final.
Top Scorers: Taylor Johnson: 26 points, Hakeem Sylla: 17 points, Sam Newman: 13 points
Report by Ollie Heathcote
Photo by Joanne Charles