Dragons down the Storm!

25/02/2024

Saturday 24th February
Hemel Storm 81-99 Bradford Dragons
NBL Division One

Hemel Storm’s title hopes suffered a damning blow at the hands of Bradford Dragons on Saturday night, as the visitors claimed a comfortable 81-99 victory. Storm were depleted in numbers, but a fully fit and fighting Bradford side made them pay as they battled tenaciously and came out on top.

Hakeem Sylla was on international duty and Brayden Inger remained injured, leaving Darien Nelson-Henry as the sole presence under the basket. Crucially, Nelson-Henry found himself in early foul trouble leaving a constant mismatch inside and left Storm lacking a suitable defensive resistance to halt the Dragons. Despite not being blessed with an array of height themselves, Bradford played intelligent basketball to exploit their opponent’s weakness and cut through Storm at ease. Ronald Blain assumed the role of chief protagonist and grabbed himself 20 points on his return to enemy territory. It was 6 '8 Zian Tordoff who benefited most from the inside space, claiming 16 points alongside 11 rebounds to secure a double double.

The Dragons shared the scoring all around leaving Storm constant headaches all over the court and guard Justin Williams proved to be a familiar thorn in their defensive side with another 20 point display.

However, Storm’s absentees can’t be used to hide their own frailties. In truth, they were careless on the ball with a series of costly turnovers and their defence was weak. On too many occasions the Dragons found themselves unchallenged at the rim, with the home side seemingly relying on someone else being there to do their work.

Offensively, it was an incohesive, disjointed showing. Passes were often left unanswered and Storm struggled to get into their stride. They failed to settle into Coach Clark’s patterns of play leaving them unable to effectively utilise their key threats. A night to forget for Clark and his team.

Initially it seemed like a familiar tale may unfold, with the returning Taylor Johnson claiming seven early points on his first night back at the Dome. Veron Eze picked up his first start of the campaign, and did his best to make up for the missing Sylla with 16 but it was the other end of the court letting his team down. Bradford picked up 29 first quarter points at a canter to take a two point lead at the first break.

A similar story unfurled in the second period, as Bradford’s big names began to earn their money. Williams and Jordan Whelan both hit from downtown to give their side a 47-54 half time lead.

Storm struggled to close the deficit with both Nelson-Henry and Sam Newman on the side lines in foul trouble. The margin grew to an ominous 21 and Williams sealed the quarter with a treble on the buzzer.

Could Storm muster a memorable comeback for their sold out crowd to remember? No, was the answer. Storm chipped away at the gap but failed to find a big run to get them within touching distance. 18 points was the final difference, as Storm missed out on a chance to close in on those above them.

Taylor Johnson led the home scoring with 23 and Eze had 16. Mark Clark will be ruing an opportunity missed as they failed to increase the pressure on the top 2. However, it must be brushed from their memories as attention turns to next week, where they will hope to welcome back some key faces.

Thames Valley Cavaliers are the visitors at the StormDome on Saturday evening with tickets available via www.stormbasketball.net.

Written by Callum Humphrey
Photo by Matt Cook

Copyright Hemel Storm Basketball