A weekend of highs and lows for Storm

27/11/2023

Saturday 25th November
Thames Valley Cavaliers 89-113 Hemel Storm
NBL Division One

Sunday 26th November
Worthing Thunder 69-65 Hemel Storm
National Cup

Hemel Storm kicked off the weekend with a victory over local rivals Thames Valley Cavaliers, winning 89-113.

After a close first half, a second half which saw Storm score 60 points ensured a comfortable victory for the visitors. The high intensity plays and remaining patient during possession paid dividends with turnovers being forced against the Cavaliers.

However, Storm were slow to start, with both sides trading baskets at either end. They needed to remain focused on defence as the Cavaliers started to find baskets through a baseline cut. Despite this, an impressive end to the quarter with two Burnell three pointers saw the away side end the quarter winning 19-25.

Whatever was said during the first quarter break seemed to have been executed to perfection, as Storm extended the lead to double digits after a few minutes had passed. Momentum was very much in Storm’s favour at this point, with TVC struggling to find an answer to this pressure. However, Storm failed to maintain that focus towards the end of the quarter, as TVC started to come back into the game. The half time buzzer soon approached, with Storm taking a 46-53 lead into the half time break.

 A different mentality was shown at the start of the second half, with Storm dominating the hosts in the opening exchanges. It only took 3 minutes for TVC to call a timeout, as Storm were only getting stronger. They moved the ball well, found open shots and executed with accuracy. This showed signs of the Cavaliers giving up, after turnovers to Eze and Disu resulting in dunks. The end of the quarter summed up the third period, with the three pointers starting to roll in. It gave Storm a 69-89 lead at the end of proceedings, with the away side looking to inflict more damage on their opponents.

The final quarter was relatively straightforward for Storm, making sure that they kept to playing the basics in order to confirm a comfortable victory. TVC looked defeated throughout and struggled to threaten with any scoring runs. What was good to see was that the scoring was spread out throughout the roster, with 7 players scoring over 10 points. Storm were able to relax slightly as the game clock expired claiming a 89-113 victory.

It was a good victory, one of which will definitely help the confidence of the team. There were many areas of good play and teamwork, which was good to see as the team performed better as a result. Overall, it gave momentum for the players heading into the double header the day after, as the team travelled to Worthing Thunder.

Sunday saw an altogether different story for the Storm as their National Cup defence failed at the last-16 hurdle, with a 69-65 defeat away at Worthing. Storm were sloppy from the start, and flirted with a late comeback but ultimately got what they deserved as Swalve missed a shot on the buzzer to send the game to an extra period, succumbing Storm to their 4th loss of the campaign. 

The game started with a Brayden Inger and-one play, ironically taking Storm to their highest lead of the game. Instantly, Storm struggled with the physicality of the Thunder, in particular Daniel Johnson-Thompson who had 18 rebounds, and that was the difference in the early periods as the Thunder out-rebounded a lethargical travelling Storm on their way to 16 second-chance points; 11 more than their opponents. Neither side settled quickly; however, it was the Thunder who led after the first 10 minutes, 21-16. Storm kept the Thunder at arm’s reach, but never managed to totally reel them in with a succession of unanswered efforts, frustrating the travellers who again struggled to tie up both ends of the court to produce a wholly convincing display. Fontaine and Newman traded late triples and the deficit was at 6 in favour of the home side as the teams hit the locker rooms for half time. Frankly, the game was symbolic of a sleepy Sunday afternoon; a stark contrast to the gripping, table-topping battles contested by both sides last year as quality was clearly lacking and both repeatedly missed clear chances to pull away. 

Thunder raced out the traps, hitting the first 7 points of the period contributing to a 14-5 run that would perhaps prove to be the difference between the sides at the final buzzer. The lead now stood at 15 and Storm would have to chip away and find their best basketball to pull it back and avoid cup disappointment. The tide seemed to be turning towards the end of the third quarter with determined defence forcing the hosts late into the shot clock, either leading to a violation or a tough, contested shot. The margin was at 8, when Veron Eze fired home from behind the arc as the buzzer called time on the quarter, inspiring fans and players into a celebration that suggested Storm weren’t quite done yet and now carried the momentum into the crucial final spell. The early stages of the quarter would be vital and Storm knew if they were to have any chance of a comeback they needed to come out strong. 

Hakeem Sylla took that task upon himself, with 3 points and a block in the first 2 minutes but it was new recruit Eynon who hit from downtown to extend the Thunder lead to 7. Storm continued to push hard and with help from a Burnell triple took the game to just 1 point. However, this was as close as they’d get as they became flustered under the pressure of the game and home crowd and turned the ball over multiple times in a poor offensive display lacking any kind of fluidity. Despite another late Jake Eynon dagger, a couple of stops and a Sylla score gave Storm chances, but Swalve failed to connect from both inside and out, missing an opportunity to save Storm’s blushes with an overtime period but it wasn’t to be and Storm crashed out of the cup, 69-65 losers. Big men Hakeem Sylla and Brayden Inger had 16 and 15 respectively, but tellingly it was Worthing who took the rebound battle 48-36, evidence for the story of the game. 

All in all, a mixed weekend with a positive league display to overcome Thames Valley Cavaliers, but ultimately Storm will have to play a lot better than they did in Worthing on Sunday if they stand any chance of a successful campaign. 

Storm’s focus is now fully on the league campaign and this begins at home this Saturday against an in form Reading Rockets. The team need your support more than ever as Reading are bound to bring travelling fans. Tickets are available online at www.stormbasketball.net.

Written by Ollie Heathcote and Callum Humphrey

Photos by TGD Visuals

Copyright Hemel Storm Basketball