Sunday 23rd April, NBL Division One Playoff Final: Hemel Storm 69 – 63 Worthing Thunder
Sunday’s game saw the highly-anticipated matchup between Vanarama-sponsored Hemel Storm and Worthing Thunder in the playoff final. Storm looked to break the curse of the playoff final and become the second ever team to finish a whole campaign unbeaten whereas Worthing looked to cause an upset, and after beating Storm in the 2017-18 season playoff final, the two teams have a great history of matchups.
Both teams started relatively slow on the scoring with good defence being applied to the oncoming offence before Storm were first to put points on the board. However, Worthing were able to knock down two three pointers to calm any nerves they may have had going into the game. Momentum was with the Thunder until the last minute where Storm were able to take a 19-18 lead, going into the second quarter.
Worthing were keen to cause Storm to panic as Coach Spinks was forced into a timeout, following a 0-6 run in the first two minutes. After this, Storm played with more purpose and intensity, bringing the lead back into their favour. Storm ended the second quarter up 39-33.
The third quarter was one of the hardest for Storm as their lack of execution gave Worthing the lead. There were many times where Storm got into the correct positions, but failure to score as many points as they did brought the game back into Thunder’s hands. This was their second time this season scoring under double digits in a quarter, previously occurring at Thames Valley away. Storm’s relentless defence stopped the score from going too far from their reach. Thunder had executed their game plan to perfection as they prevented Storm from getting into the positions where they are so effective. Thunder were winning 46-49 going into the final quarter, which was shaping up to be one of the most important quarters in Storm’s history.
Storm looked to drive at the basket more, rather than shoot for three where they had struggled. Hakeem Sylla had an outstanding quarter, coming up with two clutch and one plays to push the game into Storm’s favour. The hustle and determination from Storm was amazing and needed to be to stop Worthing from threatening. Although Jackman was proving hard to handle, the resilience of Sylla and Oyefusi began to achieve results. The final buzzer sounded as Storm took the 69-63 victory, much to the delight of the vociferous Storm faithful who had made the long journey.
It was a day to remember in the history of Hemel Storm with Chairman Tony Humphrey and Director of Basketball Jon Burnell lifting the trophy. It showed not only how good Storm have been this season, but the progress they have made as a club over the years to achieve this. It was a fantastic way to end the season, with Storm finishing with a 41-0 record in all competitions.
Top Scorers: Taylor Johnson: 20 points, Hakeem Sylla: 19 points, Aaryn Rai: 12 points
Report by Ollie Heathcote
Photos by Toby Gastaldi-Davies