Saturday 9th April: Thames Valley Cavaliers 78-91 Hemel Storm
(NBL Division One Semi Final Playoffs)
Saturday’s game saw Vanarama-sponsored Hemel Storm face local rivals Thames Valley Cavaliers, in the Playoff Semi Finals after coming off the back of a late overtime win against Derby Trailblazers the previous week. It was once again an upset as 6th seed Hemel Storm defeated the 2nd seed Thames Valley Cavaliers 91-78 to book their place in the finals in Manchester.
The first quarter saw Storm have a quick start once again, leading 4-12 within the first 5 minutes. However, Thames Valley were quick to respond, draining 2 three pointers and a 2 pointer to tie the game with 3:41 left to play. From that point, the scores stayed tight with the Cavaliers edging a 22-17 lead to end the first quarter.
Storm needed to close the gap and regain a lead, but were slow to do so as Thames Valley stormed off to a 10 point lead. Both teams continued to score but with 2 three pointers from guard Sam Newman, the 10 point lead was decreased to 3, with both teams continuing to score, turning the scoreboard back and forth with Storm taking the lead, being swiftly replied to by the Cavaliers. The scores remained a 1 possession game going into half time with the scores at 41-38 in favour of the Cavaliers.
In the third quarter Storm had to close the gap and hustle to limit the baskets they were conceding. They did just that, taking a 2-9 lead to start the second half. From then on, the scores still remained incredibly tight with Storm leading 55-56 with 2:34 left to play. To win the game, Storm needed momentum to go into the fourth quarter, and with a 3-9 end to the quarter, they gave themselves a massive boost going into the final quarter, winning 58-65.
The last quarter was the most important quarter of Storm’s season. They required discipline to not only extend the lead, but to prevent any hope of Thames Valley getting back into the game. With both teams approaching this quarter with different mentalities, within the first 1:47, Dru Spinks was forced into a timeout after an AJ Roberts layup. It was a good timeout as Storm went on a 0-10 run to gain themselves a 12 point lead with 5:03 left to play. The excitement of going 12 points ahead may have got to the team, committing fouls and eventually getting in the foul penalty. Despite Thames Valley’s best efforts to get back in the game, Storm took control throughout in the final 2 minutes of the game, taking advantage of missed shots from the Cavaliers, leaving them with no other choice but to commit fouls to slow down the game clock. Fortunately for Storm, their free throw accuracy was good enough to extend the lead to double digits, leaving them to see out the game as 78-91 winners.
It was a brilliantly fought contest, with many tense moments throughout, but Storm used their experience, hustle and teamwork to get themselves over the line. This means that Storm go through to the Playoff Finals, facing league champions Solent Kestrels at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester on Sunday 24th April. It was enjoyed by a capacity crowd with an amazing number of Storm fans making the journey to Uxbridge, creating a great atmosphere and spurring the team on to an impressive win.
Storm now have one more home game which is an exhibition game against Great Britain Over 35s. This will see the return of former Storm players Spud Kearney, Tom Adorian and Walid Mumuni as well as acknowledging Bode Adeluola’s 10 year service to the club on Saturday 16th April, 7pm tip. The end of season player awards will be announced at half time in that game as well. Tickets are available at the door, on the night or in advance at www.stormbasketball.net
Photos by Joanne Charles and JLR Videography