Two big wins for Storm in home double header!

24/03/2024

Saturday 23rd March
Hemel Storm  115 – 93 Nottingham Hoods
NBL Division One

Sunday 24th March
Hemel Storm 90 – 81 Essex Rebels
NBL Division One

Hemel Storm claimed a vital pair of wins over Nottingham Hoods and second place rivals Essex Rebels, in what may prove to be an important weekend come the end of the season. Storm now move into second place over the Rebels before the sides meet again next week in Essex. 

First, Saturday saw the visit of Nottingham Hoods and it started poorly for Storm. Mark Clark was forced into an early timeout to try and suppress the Hoods’ impressive offensive opening. His side did cut into the lead, the tide seeming to turn on consecutive Brayden Inger threes, but Nottingham edged back in front. Greg Skoric seemed to be thriving in the absence of Hakeem Sylla, causing many early inside problems for the hosts and was able to instigate some electric Nottingham basketball early on. Second chance points seemed easy to come by, with eight of Skoric’s total 20 rebounds on the offensive glass and his team claimed the first quarter 25-33. 

After just 11-and-a-half minutes Storm had conceded 40 points and they knew the fortunes of their weekend relied on them addressing this quickly. Midway through the second, Storm seemed to click into gear. The spark seen in recent weeks returned and a 15-3 run to close the period saw the deficit cleared and it was all to play for at the half: 50-50. Brayden Inger was showing his usual grit as he worked to bring his side back into it and last week's NBL Player of the Week Veron Eze shined again here. 

League veteran Taylor Johnson sensed a chance to grab control of the game and took things into his own hands at the start of the third. 10 points in five minutes for him along with trebles from Inger and Sam Newman eased the home side into a 17 point lead. Here, Storm played some magnificent basketball to push home their ruthlessness and bolster their bid to climb the table before the season’s close. Nelson-Henry began to exert his dominance on the tie, and the score stood at 87-70 with one quarter to play.  

Perhaps Storm and Clark shifted one eye towards a big clash the next day as the roster was rotated and key men rested in the fourth. It offered a chance for the likes of Jack Burnell and Greg Durand to stake their claim, impressing with some additional court time. Nottingham became irate and the game died down to a close with a series of technical fouls for the away side. The final score was 115-93, and eyes turned to Sunday’s meeting with Essex Rebels. Inger top scored with 21; Johnson and Eze had 19 apiece. 

Attention turned to a crunch clash with Essex Rebels 24 hours later and another bumper crowd filled the StormDome in anticipation. Storm knew a win was needed to maintain any hope of a second place finish and a chance to play in front of their own fans in the first two rounds of the playoff campaign. 

In his fourth year at the club, Sam Newman has arguably never been as valuable, exhibiting all his skills and prowess in controlling the court expertly. He opened the scoring here with a 3-point effort and while their offence was less fruitful than early on the previous night, a strong defensive start helped them open up a first quarter lead. Back-to-back Tez Allen threes extended the lead to a useful 11 points at the first break; just the start Mark Clark was after. 

The Rebels began to hit back, firing themselves from behind the arc and the deficit was cut to four. Trey Chapman was enjoying a good night inside the paint, Storm again missing Hakeem Sylla but Brayden Inger and Darien Nelson-Henry were ready to step up. Inger continued the previous evening’s good work, going toe-to-toe with Chapman in a thrilling battle and grabbed another 15 points to his name alongside 11 rebounds. Halftime came and Storm held the upper hand - 50-42. 

For the third quarter in a row, Newman hit an early treble but from then on the Rebels seized control. A 15-0 run edged them ahead for the first time in the game and Storm had to regroup. Seven unanswered points of their own took back control and they ended the quarter two up at 67-65. 

Taylor Johnson stepped up at a crucial period and helped extend Storm’s lead to a more comfortable margin. Newman again hit from downtown and he had 19 points, excelling once more in the role of floor general. The Rebels weren’t going to lie down but when Chapman’s night was ended by a technical foul with under a minute to play their efforts looked over. Some unsavoury scenes threatened to ruin what was a high quality basketball game as Rebels looked to foul late on and a tense game boiled over. Seven were ejected in total, but when it all calmed down Storm walked out 90-81 victors. Johnson had 23, Newman 19 and Inger 15 and Storm can look back on another vital win in an impressive second half of their campaign. 

The sides meet again next week in the reverse fixture away at Essex. A crucial matchup will decide second place in the final standings and may also prove important in securing a home semi-final come the playoffs, with the sides highly billed to meet again at this stage. 

 

Written by Callum Humphrey
Photos by Matt Cook

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