Blockbuster double awaits as Storm face two must win games

22/03/2024

This weekend sees Hemel Storm suit up at home for two pivotal matches against visiting teams each with different aims.

Saturday’s opposition Nottingham Hoods, looking to avenge their narrow 100-106 defeat to Storm in the reverse fixture, will aim to hold onto the final playoff position in 8th, amid the threat of the City of Birmingham Rockets and Thames Valley Cavaliers. Despite their position in the table, Storm will need to remain focused as the Hoods are one of three teams to overcome the league leaders, beating fellow East Midlands rivals the Derby Trailblazers.

The Hoods roster, led by former Hood David Watts, is full of talent in both the front and backcourt. An example of their talent includes Johde Campbell. The majority of play runs through the guard, as he has consistently shown his ability to drive to the basket alongside his impressive accuracy, shooting 38.1% from three pointers. Campbell is consistent in showing his quality, as his quick first step is able to create space for himself, averaging 16.2 points per game.

Landon Taliaferro is another example of whom the Hoods recruited over the summer. He is known for his exceptional shooting package, holding an outstanding 21.1 points per game average to his name. He looks to provide a handful to a Storm defence who have conceded the second least amount of points over the whole season. Despite Taliaferro’s abilities to score, the Hoods also line up with big man Greg Skoric, who was also recruited in the summer. His addition has been nothing short of impactful, averaging a double double so far this season. His ability to claim rebounds could prove pivotal in this game, so Storm would need to remain focused in order to prevent an upset.

As for Sunday’s opponents, the Essex Rebels currently sit 2nd in the league table, and will look to prevent Storm from snatching their place from them. The two teams have had one matchup so far this season which was in the KitKing Trophy, with Storm running out 102-91 victors in a high-quality game of basketball. Just like the Hoods, the Rebels have a roster full of talent, with NBL experience. However, this is the first league encounter between these two teams so both sides will be looking to win by as high a margin as possible to gain the head-to-head, which could prove decisive as the regular season reaches its climax.

The first key player to Essex Rebels is former Solent Kestrel, and most recently Surrey Scorcher, Luke Busumbru. Busumbru has a vast amount of NBL experience, and has shone throughout this Essex Rebels side this season. Having played Storm on numerous occasions including a thrilling Playoff Final, Storm should remain prepared for a player who enjoys driving to the basket, using both his pace and power which can prove to be a nightmare for defenders. His ability to initiate contact from defenders can also help the Rebels, as every point will matter in this fixture.

Alongside the leadership of Busumbru, is the energetic Conor Nelson. Having joined the Rebels in the summer, there have been many scenarios where Nelson has proved to be the difference-maker in tight games. His performance in the away fixture at Reading Rockets particularly stood out, helping the Rebels to a vital victory. Having already averaged 12.1 points this season, Nelson is also capable of sharing the ball to his fellow teammates, with players such as Trey Chapman using his aerial ability to finish close to the rim.

The last player who remains in Storm’s focus is Victor Olarerin. Olarerin has showcased his abilities wherever he has played, having represented the Nottingham Hoods, Thames Valley Cavaliers and now the Essex Rebels. The guard brings an enormous amount of energy, which could definitely prove useful as the game nears its closing stages. He averages 17.5 points per game, and is certainly one to watch on Storm’s radar.

Despite having three players to watch, the Essex Rebels also contain fantastic depth, with players such as Kyron Martin, Elias Poorman and Ebuka Ekwegh who can definitely contribute towards the Rebels’ score. However, in their way stand a Storm side who will be fully confident and well prepared for the weekend.

It is sure to be a fantastic weekend full of quality basketball. Storm ideally need to win both matches to continue their push toward the top two and take each game as it comes. Having a good momentum into the playoffs can really dictate a team’s performance in the postseason, where it is simply win or go home. However, the players need your support as an action-packed weekend awaits at the Stormdome. Make sure to buy your tickets at stormbasketball.net.

Written by Ollie Heathcote

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