Final league game showdown for Storm!

05/04/2024

Storm take on London Elite at the StormDome this weekend in their final regular season matchup. Although on paper, the game is doomed as a ‘dead rubber’, there is plenty more to play for than just pride for a Storm side hoping to bounce back after a rare disappointing performance in their recent good run. 

After last week’s defeat to Essex, Storm can no longer win the league and would rely on Derby Trailblazers failing to beat both Birmingham Rockets and Bradford Dragons in their own final weekend fixtures to clinch second spot. If the Blazers, who have controlled top place in the division for the majority of the year, were to win both, they would take Storm’s league title off their hands. Essex will be desperate to win their own game in Newcastle, ensuring Derby have to win both of theirs to bag the big prize.

London Elite, meanwhile, have long been relegated after just one year in the NBL’s premier division. In truth, it’s been a tough campaign which has never really kicked off, claiming just 3 wins. However, with two of those being against second-bottom Barking, a win against Storm and a loss for Barking would see Elite avoid the ultimate embarrassment of a bottom placed finish on head-to-head record. 

Despite their lowly place, Elite do promise a wealth of NBL experience. Ray Akpofure, Troy McIndoe and Kane Daley all tout past years in the top flight while some familiar faces may prove a threat. Charles Acquah-Davies, memorably playing a crucial role in last year’s quadruple success with a game-winning block at Worthing among other notable contributions, will bring his constant enthusiasm, work ethic and defensive prowess while the original ‘housewives favourite’ returns. Walid Mumuni, former club captain and legend, offers a steady head and invaluable leadership and will hope to steer his side to an upset at his former club. 

Storm, themselves, will be hungry to right the wrongs of last week. An abject performance away at Essex cost them a shot at retaining their title in the last week of the season, and looks to have cost them second spot and a home playoff semi-final, should they reach that stage. Their task will be toughened by the continued absence of Hakeem Sylla through a long-term injury and Taylor Johnson who picked up a one-match suspension following a Basketball England review into the home fixture against Essex Rebels. Other squad personnel must step up and this will see an increase in an already hectic workload for Sam Newman. He will be looked upon to control proceedings and will be pivotal, with Storm also missing Kavell Hawes to Division 3 playoff duties. 

The fixture has no real mathematical implications for Storm, destined, it seems, for third place, but may be a mental turning point for them. If they can bounce back with a convincing performance and restore confidence of previous weeks heading into the post-season, silverware may yet be on the horizon once more. Stumble here however, and doubts will creep in as to their playoff credibility this time round. A depleted roster must find a way past a dogged, determined Elite keen to tell their story of misfortune after some close losses and take some pride from a tough season. 

Tickets are available here; tip-off is 7pm on Saturday at the StormDome. Information of a home playoff quarter-final fixture next Saturday will follow shortly after the weekend’s proceedings are concluded. 

Written by Callum Humphrey

Copyright Hemel Storm Basketball