Sunday 20th March: Hemel Storm 127-118 Essex Rebels (after overtime) (NBL Division One)
Sunday’s game saw Vanarama-sponsored Hemel Storm face Essex Rebels in what was a must win game for both teams. For Storm, it was all about increasing the hope of getting that home leg in the playoffs; for Essex it was a chance to boost their survival chances. The teams could not be separated after an outstanding shooting display from both teams, overtime was where Storm thrived and won the game much to the delight of the packed out Storm fans.
In a high scoring game, Storm showed a spread of scorers but with a standout performance was Taylor Johnson scoring 43 points 12 rebounds and 8 assists, 2 shy off a triple double. Overtime saw Bode Adeluola thrive scoring a game total of 27 points alongside Sam Newman and Greg Poleon both displaying good all round play throughout the game.
When the first quarter began, Storm got off to a 6-0 lead before Essex showed their shooting ability beyond the three point arc scoring a range of three pointers to turn the game in their favour, with both teams battling to gain a comfortable lead. The three point shooting from Essex looked like a sign of things to come in the game when Storm lead 17-15, each of Rebels’ points had come from three pointers. Storm needed to close out those shots quicker because whenever the ball was found open with a Rebels player, they connected and gave away points. After Storm had a three point lead towards the end of the quarter, Essex responded and connected with one with three seconds left on the clock. Both teams went into the quarter break with the scores at 25-27 in favour of the Rebels.
Storm had to improve on defence to limit the amount of points Essex were getting. At the start of the second quarter, Rebels showed that they had a variety of ways to score the ball as they used their strength and height inside with former Storm Player Lee Hodges scoring many times under the basket. Storm had to keep sticking at the game and not let the lead slip too far for them to come back from. But Rebels shot the ball very well, rarely missing compared to Storm who did execute their shots well, but not as frequently as the Rebels. A poor last few minutes saw Storm trailing at half time 47-59.
In the second half Storm regrouped and came out more organised as they had the chance to discuss what they needed to do better and how to win the game. The third quarter saw Storm produce a professional performance on both ends of the court, limiting the amount of points the opposition were scoring and making sure they executed their own. Storm’s star man Taylor Johnson was especially useful in this quarter as he managed to score an amazing variety of shots from both inside and outside the arc which brought the game back to a small number of points. This performance was very impressive as they managed to tie the game by the end of the third quarter with everything to play for at 72-72.
The fourth quarter was very tense and exciting. Both teams continued to score and achieved their game highest points in a quarter with 33 apiece. Both teams kept shooting well. But with a 9-0 run in Storm’s favour to take the score to 89-79 and 5:15 to play, it looked as if Storm had the upper hand. With this came a lack of concentration allowing the Rebels to tie the game and put the lead in their favour with less than a minute to go. With the Rebels leading by 3, a Shaq Lewis put back slam dunk meant that Storm had to foul with the shot clock disabled. And with Essex only making 1 out of 2 free throws, it was left to Storm to try to take the game to overtime or potentially win the game. Taylor Johnson drove inside and shot against the Rebels defender with the referee deeming there to have been contact leaving Taylor Johnson with the weight on his shoulders to tie the game by making both free throws. He executed them both, and with some good defence from Jack Burnell sacrificing his elbow and falling on the floor to stop the half court game winner, the game was taken to overtime with the scores at 105-105.
The crowd had been behind Storm for the whole game and they were to be much louder when Storm got off to a 5-0 lead to start the long 5 minutes of overtime. The overtime saw Bode Adeluola rolling back the years with his ability to drive to the basket, pull up from mid range and shoot three pointers successfully which helped Storm win this game. With smart plays from both defence and offense, they managed to draw fouls and execute their free throws. As the seconds ticked down, Storm were in the lead by 9 and managed to win the game 127-118.
This was a closer game than Storm would have wanted when looking at how much Storm beat them in the reverse fixture in December, but they managed to get that all important win to boost hopes for that top 4 spot in the league standings. In order, to gain top four, they must beat crowned league champions Solent Kestrels and hope one of the top 4 teams fail to win in their last home game of the regular season on Saturday 26th March, 7pm tip. It’s going to be a huge game so make sure you don’t miss it. Tickets available at the door, on the night or in advance at www.stormbasketball.net.
Photos by Joanne Charles