Storm dominate in first home game of 2024

21/01/2024

Saturday 20th January
Hemel Storm 105 – 72 Loughborough Riders
NBL Division One

Hemel Storm claimed a comfortable 105-72 victory over Loughborough Riders in what was a clash between 3rd and 5th in the league table. Looking to gain revenge from their opening game defeat to the Riders, Storm demonstrated excellent, high-intensity team basketball which helped them to extend their lead to a comfortable margin in the closing stages of the game.

The statistics emphasised the importance of sharing the basketball, with 5 members of Storm’s roster achieving over 10 points; with Hakeem Sylla having an enjoyable night, achieving 28 points. The outside shooting presence of Seth Swalve was also evident, registering 20 points, whilst Veron Eze excited the home faithful with his energy and a deserved 11 points. As for the away side, Elijah Bailey led the scoring with 23 points. However, Storm managed to limit the freedom for high percentage shots as they were defensively solid throughout the majority of the game, boxing out well to prevent second chance points.

It took Storm 1 minute 55 seconds to get their first points on the board, as the team were adapting to new backboards and rings since their last outing at home. Once the first basket went in, Storm looked to gain confidence as they were able to capitalise off the forced turnovers, with two threes from Newman and Swalve swiftly following. It was an ominous sign of things to come throughout the game, especially when Veron Eze slam-dunked the ball home to assert his authority to the fixture. The aerial ability of Sylla, Eze, and Inger was prevalent throughout the first quarter with Storm continuing to execute their plays to perfection. Loughborough were still refusing to hide as both teams went into the first quarter break with Storm winning 23-16.

A fast start was needed for Hemel Storm to start the second quarter, ensuring some breathing space and a comfortable lead. After a pair of three pointers from masked-up Jack Burnell and Sam Newman, Riders’ Coach Maynard was forced into an early timeout to stop the momentum. The Riders were able to prevent Storm from scoring for 3 minutes after the timeout was called, as the game began to turn into both teams trading missed baskets. Storm remained focused despite a continuous fight back from Loughborough, extending their lead to 13, with both teams going into half time with Storm winning 46-33.

If both teams were struggling to score the ball before half time, the situation was certainly the opposite at the start of the third quarter, as the two sides were showcasing a competitive, high-quality display. Storm needed to make their home advantage count and extend their lead further, as Loughborough would continue to breathe down their necks until the final buzzer. The third quarter left both teams almost unable to be separated, as Storm eventually won it 27-24, going into the final quarter 73-57 up. Despite a 16 point lead in favour of Storm, this encounter was far from over, as a Riders scoring run could add an unbearable amount of pressure to the home side.

Storm remained ruthless, with Coach Clark stressing in the quarter break the the game was not finished until the final buzzer. A 13-5 scoring run in favour of Storm, definitely helped their chances of winning the game, as hopes of a potential comeback were slowly fading away for the Riders. Sylla was using his skills and experience to constantly create easy finishes under the basket, with all available members of Storm’s roster taking a place on the court during the game. The final buzzer sounded with Storm taking a convincing 105-72 win.

It was a fantastic team performance from Storm in front of a packed StormDome, with all members of the roster looking to have gelled together over the Christmas break. Other than the opening couple of minutes of the game, the defence and offence was executed to perfection, with Storm always in control of the game.

Overall, an incredibly pleasing display with momentum to take into next weekend’s home fixture to Team Newcastle University; tickets are available at www.stormbasketball.net

Written by Ollie Heathcote
Photos by Leuis Charles

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