Saturday 4th November - 7.00pm tip off
NBL Division One
KitKing Semi Final
Hemel Storm will look for a reaction after a mixed start to their campaign, as they take on Barking Abbey in league action and Bradford Dragons in the KitKing Trophy semi-final, hoping to book their place in the final. Storm come into the weekend off the back of a disappointing 8 point loss in Derby, where defensive frailties allowed an inspired Derby shooting performance to get the better of them and will hope to improve with a challenging spell of fixtures ahead in the next few weeks.
First up, Storm return to Hemel for league action on Saturday where they will welcome Barking Abbey to the StormDome. The visitors arrive low on confidence after a tough start has seen them lose their first 4 league games. They were dealt a big blow on Saturday as they fell to a desperate 9 point loss to newly promoted London Elite in their own backyard, gifting the newcomers their first D1 victory since they arrived in NBL’s top league. The tie is by no means a foregone conclusion, however, as Storm must remain aware of a talented, youthful Barking roster, containing former Thames Valley man Juan Manning, fresh from a 23 point outing, and ex-Solent guard Sam Akano. The home side have their own issues to overcome as well, with a split start to their league season, winning 2 and losing 2, as they remain to look slightly unsettled as they try to adapt to the new philosophies of coach Mark Clark and move on from the giddy heights of last years unbeaten stretch.
A long trip to Bradford on Sunday offers Clark’s side an opportunity to defend their KitKing title as they look to tame the Dragons in semi-final action. A tough assignment can be expected, as Bradford’s renowned competitive spirit and fight combined with an increasingly talented roster stands in the way of a comfortable afternoon for the Storm.
Bradford got on the board in the league on Saturday after a very challenging opening spell of fixtures and a tough triple overtime defeat at the hands of the Birmingham Rockets halted their impressive start to the season. Previously in this competition, the Dragons finished the group stages in second position behind only Derby Trailblazers in the northern section after overcoming Team Newcastle and Manchester Magic, and then ensured their place in this semi-final by sneaking past Birmingham Rockets in a tense 3 point victory. Veterans Rihards Sulcs and Ricky Fetske will use their experience and league know how to challenge Storm, while American Justin Williams comes into this one flying after an impressive high scoring start to the season earned his place in last week's Rebound NBL Team of the Week. Jordan Whelan brings BBL experience, although the British guard has missed the last few weeks through an injury so it will be interesting to see if he suits up for the Dragons’ semi-final clash. Coach Chris Mellor has also used his many years of coaching at this level to turn himself into a handy operator, who will no doubt ensure his side are prepared extensively to try and take down the Storm, and prevent them reaching back-to-back Trophy finals. Storm will have added motivation for this one, if they should require it, as they are determined to hold onto their trophy and remain the only side in the league to hold silverware after last year’s quadruple.
It will be a challenging weekend for Storm as they look to iron out defensive issues seen last week and continue to gel as a new group of players with high expectations against their name. The time for Storm’s ideas to come together must be now, as the season begins to run away into full flow and we enter the crucial stages of the trophy, and if Storm have ambitions of a successful, silverware winning season performances must begin to be manufactured on the court, starting with this weekend.
Tickets are available online for Saturday's home game here.
Written by Callum Humphrey