Sunday 8th January, National Cup Semi Final: Hemel Storm 98-93 Milton Keynes Breakers
Sunday’s game was a highly anticipated matchup between Hemel Storm and MK Breakers in the National Cup. With a place in the final at stake, Storm did not disappoint winning the game 98-93 in front of a sold out StormDome.
The game started slowly with both teams attempting to gain control early on into the game, with emotions running high both on and off the court. However, two alley-oops in the space of three minutes and three pointers from Taylor Johnson, saw Storm race off to a good lead. However, Breakers’ resilience was a pivotal factor preventing Storm from easy shots, and responding with the 3 point accuracy of Spencer and Langley. Storm showed great discipline to extend their control in the game with them going into the Quarter One break winning 28-15.
Storm completely showed their dominance at the start of the second quarter extending their lead to 18 with 3:30 gone in the period. But once again, Breakers were building small scoring runs to constantly apply pressure to Storm. This pressure led to moments of misjudgment and miscommunication which saw many turnovers and vital possessions wasted for both teams. Breakers managed to limit the lead to single figures before a swift response from Storm which saw both teams go into half time with Storm winning 55-44.
The third quarter was unusually poor from a Storm perspective as in previous games this has often been their best quarter. As for Breakers, they applied their game plan to perfection and frustrated Storm. Due to this frustration, Breakers capitalised on turnovers from Storm and defended exceptionally well, limiting Storm to only 15 points. After a three pointer from Spencer being the last score of the quarter, Breakers were in with a chance of causing an upset only being behind by 4 points with Storm in the lead 70-66.
Storm had to respond to the pressure applied by Breakers which they did with the combination of an Aaryn Rai 3 pointer and a Taylor Johnson and one play. Breakers continued to show perseverance and determination to get a result causing some nervousness amongst the Storm faithful. A layup from Hakeem Sylla forced Coach Beddow into a timeout with Storm leading by 84-76. The atmosphere was electric from both sets of supporters, who joined together to create a fantastic advert for British Basketball. With 1 minute left to play, it looked like Storm were coasting into the final but a lapse of concentration saw MK shoot free throws in a desperate attempt to try and make a last minute comeback. However Storm took the victory winning 98-93, therefore securing their place in the National Cup final.
It was an entertaining game, in what was a record breaking attendance, where both teams showed their competitiveness and resilience. It was Storm who came out on top who now face Derby Trailblazers in the National Cup final in Manchester. As for the Breakers, they showed that they can compete with the best of the NBL completing what was a historic cup run for them. They did their many travelling supporters proud.
Storm are back in action next week with an away trip to Bradford Dragons on Saturday 14th January before the National Cup final on Sunday 22nd January against Derby Trailblazers at the National Performance Centre in Manchester.
Top Scorers: Taylor Johnson: 31 points, Aaryn Rai: 26 points, Sam Newman: 17 points
Report by Ollie Heathcote
Photo by Joanne Charles