Saturday 23rd September
Hemel Storm 81 – 70 London Elite
Sunday 24th September
Thames Valley Cavaliers 89 – 104 Hemel Storm
Hemel Storm came through a challenging double-header weekend to progress to a KitKing Trophy quarter-final tie against MK Breakers next Sunday, winning both games to go unbeaten in their group and take their winning streak to 45 in all competitions.
Storm started the weekend with a less than convincing 11 point win over newly-promoted London Elite, in front of a packed out StormDome. Hemel started strongly, racing out to a 7 point lead with a treble of three-point shots inside the first two minutes. However, any ideas of a simple night for Storm were instantly dismissed by an inspired Elite side, clearly keen to prove the point that they belong at this level. They kept Storm out for over 3 minutes and levelled the tie at 9-9, with a Jordan Gray triple of his own. New signing Tez Allen came into the game and made an impact, helping his side end the first quarter 8 to the good.
Storm pulled the lead out to 12 early in the second, behind consecutive Hakeem Sylla scores, but failed to totally break away as Elite continued their determined display, and finished the quarter with another late Gray three to take the quarter by 1 and head into the locker room 7 down, but far from out. Hemel came out sloppily; Eynon’s early triple helping bring the tie to a 2 point game. Storm struggled to click offensively, shooting only 28% from behind the arc and often turning the ball over as they tried to get to grips with new systems and strategies employed by Head Coach Clark. Storm stuttered into the final period just 3 ahead, again conceding a late three pointer to hand Elite the momentum.
Storm never looked comfortable in the final stretch, with the deficit reaching a high of just 6 points. London had several opportunities to take the lead, which they failed to convert, and never breached Storm’s lead in the game. Newman eventually pushed his side over the finishing line, with 10 final quarter points to take his personal tally to a game-high 23, including a crucial ‘and-one’ play with just over a minute to go to ease the tension of the fans. Storm eventually came away 11-point victors, with plenty of lessons to take on their travels to Thames Valley the very next day. Sam Newman led all scorers with 23 to go with 6 rebounds and 7 assists, while Hakeem Sylla recorded a 20 point double-double.
The team then headed to Uxbridge on Sunday, where they took on Thames Valley Cavaliers, knowing a win in an intense environment was needed to top the Trophy pool. The weekend’s second game started in a similar fashion to the first, with Storm slow out the gates forcing Mark Clark into an early time-out; his side down 2 points. Despite the time-out, Storm continued to struggle, being bullied inside by their opposition’s physical play-style resulting in a number of second-chance points due to easy offensive rebounds, allowing the lead to stretch to 8 by the end of the first.
Storm and Seth Swalve bounced back in the second, as they increased their physicality on defence and found some offensive flow; Seth Swalve with back-to-back threes to turn the momentum of the tie in Storm’s favour. American Swalve had 13 in the quarter, top scoring in the game with 28 points in an important performance to continue his fine start to the season. A rejuvenated Storm side won the quarter by 15 and headed into the half time break 7 points ahead.
The sides traded baskets early in the third with a Brayden Inger three taking the lead to 11, before Thames Valley replied with familiar faces Bode Adeluola and AJ Roberts helping cut the gap back to 5. An inspired Inger hit consecutive three balls to settle the Storm and Tez Allen contributed on both ends of the floor to send the game into the final stretch with Storm leading by 8. Storm managed to maintain control throughout the final quarter with their lead reaching no fewer than 5 and stretched out to double digits with just under 7 minutes remaining. Sylla hit 10 in the final 5 minutes against his former side to ensure no comeback was possible, and new boys Allen and Inger both had long-range hits to send the travelling fans home happy with a 15 point win.
Imports Swalve and Inger top scored with 28 and 27 respectively, while Hakeem Sylla lived up to his reputation with another double-double and Sam Newman had an impressive 13 assists to go with his personal tally of 12 points.
Overall it was a positive weekend for Storm, with an early-season side familiarising themselves with a new play-style and new team-mates. The boys continued their positive winning habit and progressed to the knock-out stages of the KitKing Trophy, which they have ambitions on defending.
Take a look at the photos from this weekend here.
Get down to the StormDome on Sunday at 6pm to support the squad in quarter-final action against highly-tipped Div 2 side MK Breakers. It’s sure to be a busy one so grab your tickets while you can through at www.stormbasketball.net.
Written by Callum Humphrey
Photos by Joanne Charles