Saturday 1st October, KitKing Trophy Quarter Final
Hemel Storm 99 Bradford Dragons 78
Saturday’s game saw Vanarama-sponsored Hemel Storm face Bradford Dragons in the KitKing Trophy Quarter Final. Coming off the back of a successful group stage, Storm had to make sure that they would win, with a semi final game away at Reading Rockets at stake. Storm withstood Bradford’s early pressure and managed to secure a convincing victory, winning 99-78.
It was a frustrating start to the game, with Bradford using the experience of their former BBL player Jordan Whelan to drive to the basket and score. Storm did reply with a three pointer from Seth Swalve and managed to use the height of Hakeem Sylla and Aaryn Rai to their advantage, resulting in better shots being scored. After Taylor Johnson made the score 19-14 with three minutes to go, a 3-9 run in favour of the Dragons ended the quarter with themselves in the lead; a slow start that Storm had to fix going into the second quarter.
It was in fact Bradford who started the second quarter off well, scoring two three pointers in the first 2:25 of the quarter with Storm not yet playing to what they are capable of forcing coach Dru Spinks to call a timeout to demand more energy on the court. The timeout worked to perfection with Storm immediately closing the 6 point Dragons lead to tie the game. The lead flipped back and forth before a 12-0 Storm run put them ahead 45-35. This run was important leading to half time where eventually both teams went into the locker room with Storm leading 49-38.
Storm went into the second half with more energy and managed to limit Bradford’s main scorer Whelan to tough shots, which was a factor in their success. The connection between Taylor Johnson and Hakeem Sylla was starting to show as the execution of the pick and roll left Sylla with an open shot under the basket. Storm’s passing was excellent seeing them use the back door cut to their advantage, leading to players like Aaryn Rai to score his points. This game was starting to open up into a more team performance, seeing Jack Burnell score two three pointers and Charles Acquah-Davis shoot accurately from inside the arc. This hard work put Storm into the lead by 75-60 going into the last quarter.
Storm went into the last quarter with discipline and continued to show their dominance. Both Rai and Sylla enjoyed scoring from around the hoop with many dunks and the semi final beckoned. Storm once again took their opportunities and were able to gain many steals with their strong defence. It was an encouraging display for the Storm fans which produced some impressive moments along with some learnings. The final buzzer sounded with Storm winning 99-78, a convincing win in the end, meaning Storm progress to the semi final of the KitKing Trophy.
It was an interesting game, where Storm took time to reach their full potential, but in the end their teamwork meant that they took victory against Bradford Dragons, who were tough to break down.
Storm are away to Reading Rockets on Saturday 8th October in the KitKing Trophy Semi Final, 2pm tip. The next home game is the first NBL Division One League game at home to Bradford Dragons at Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre on 15th October, 7pm tip off. Tickets for the 15th October game are available at www.stormbasketball.net
Top scorers: Aaryn Rai, 24 pts & 12 rebounds, Hakeem Sylla, 18pts & 15 rebounds, Taylor Johnson 20 pts & 9 rebounds.
Report by Ollie Heathcote
Photos by Joanne Charles