Saturday 18th November - 6.15pm tip off
NBL Division One
Hemel Storm will look to avenge their recent KitKing Trophy semi-final loss, as they return to Bradford for the second time in three weeks on Saturday. The early league table would suggest the travelling Storm side come into this tie as favourites, as they sit 5th in the standings compared to their hosts’ 8th place; however in reality the sides may feel differently as Bradford carry the confidence of a Trophy final spot and the reassurance that they have already conquered this Storm side once this season.
Two weeks ago when Storm made the long trip up North to Halifax, it was a truly one-sided tale with the home side always looking in control and despite Storm’s valiant efforts they never really looked like they could make an imprint on the semi-final matchup. The Dragons eventually sealed a 10 point victory and sent the visitors on the long trip home, with nothing to show for their travels. Storm will hope to use this loss as both motivation and as a learning curve as they face a repeat challenge, this time in NBL Division 1 and are sure to focus on American guard Justin Williams, who broke the game open last time with a massive 33 points and provided a shooting clinic from beyond the arc. This, combined with an electric start to the season elsewhere, is enough to tell Storm that Williams will be a key factor, and they must implement plans to stop a repeat of their previous match-up, and bad memories from reforming.
However, Dragons have more to offer than just Williams with talent throughout their whole roster, evidenced last weekend, as they claimed a double-winning weekend in league and cup action. Saturday saw them dominate struggling London Elite, claiming a convincing 32 point victory and strong contributions from all over the court will alert Storm to the well-rounded challenge they will face this week. Sharp-shooting guard Joe Buchanan and Micah Savery-Richards both hit an impressive 27 points, which combined with the latters 6 rebounds and 5 assists was enough to see him make Rebound’s NBL Team of the Week, with Buchanan perhaps unfortunate not to take up a place for himself. Sunday saw another convincing Dragons win; 34 point victors over lower league opponents Bristol Flyers II in the National Cup. Again, Bradford showed their depth with their roster rotated, allowing an opportunity for squad players such as Jacques Misambu to make an impression, as he hit 16 points and shot a clinical 75% from 3 point range. Another reminder for Storm of the quality of this Bradford Dragons lineup, still missing guard Jordan Whelan as he continues to battle with a knock but he could play a part this weekend to add to the tough assignment facing the visitors.
Storm, meanwhile, claimed a confidence-restoring 47 point thumping of Division 2 Teesside Lions in their weekend cup clash, exciting the crowd and providing a promising display to offer hope of an away victory this weekend. Storm struggled in the first quarter, losing it by 8 and giving up a concerning 31 points, but then rallied with a dominant display to claim the final three quarters by a margin of 55 and fans will hope this is a sign of an upturn in the season’s form. Brayden Inger shone with 26 points and Hakeem Sylla also provided a positive impact off the bench, using his physicality and paint-presence to act as a reminder of the quality of this Storm roster. Storm showed a much improved defensive outing, protecting the basket imposingly and thwarting their opposition who amazingly went scoreless in the final period. This commanding defence could be crucial in overcoming the challenge of the Dragons this weekend. The team will be determined to build on this performance and provide another positive showing in Bradford this weekend.
A competitive, tight battle is guaranteed and Storm will hope they can take out any remaining anger against the side that ensured they won’t retain all four trophies they won last year. Storm will believe they have the quality to overcome a tough Bradford side, but will be aware of the threat posed by a talented roster, who are a formidable force on their home court. Details of the trip can be found on our website at www.stormbasketball.net.
Written by Callum Humphrey