Saturday 10th December, NBL Division One: Worthing Thunder 95-100 Hemel Storm
Saturday’s match saw Vanarama-sponsored Hemel Storm face Worthing Thunder in a game where both teams came into it undefeated and wanting to put a first loss to their opposition. In what was a game which saw both teams leading by game high margins of 11, Storm came out on top with an excellent display in the last few minutes to silence the home crowd, winning 95-100.
It was a slow start for both teams as it took 1 minute 50 seconds for Worthing to start scoring with Storm already having scored 3 of their own. From that point onwards, both teams shot to a high degree of accuracy; and with Worthing in control, Coach Spinks was forced into his first timeout of the game with Thunder ahead by 11 and a 10-0 scoring run prior to the timeout being called. Thunder’s high intensity game plan was definitely working as they were able to not only shoot well, but also force Storm into turnovers. After the timeout, Storm managed to reduce the lead going into the end of the first quarter with Worthing leading 32-25.
Taylor Johnson immediately scored a three pointer to start the second quarter which was responded to by Arissol as Storm could not seem to score for 3 minutes. Charles Acquah-Davis had an impressive montage of two three pointers in quick succession helping Storm to reduce the deficit before an Aaryn Rai layup tied the game at 43-43 with 2:39 left of the half. Both teams cancelled each other out to end the half but a jumpshot from Blain saw Storm go into half time marginally behind 51-49.
In the second half, both teams were focused on getting the win, with Worthing scoring, which was swiftly responded to by Storm who were able to score from inside and outside the arc. However a 17-2 run in favour of the Storm saw them take the lead by a maximum of nine, causing coach Taylor to have to regroup his roster in order to mount a comeback in front of their home crowd. This spectacular run saw Storm in the lead at the end of the third quarter, winning 69-76.
Storm saw their maximum lead of the game come three minutes into the last quarter, with Hakeem Sylla scoring a layup to put Storm into the lead by 11 points, forcing Thunder coach and former Thunder player Zaire Taylor into a timeout. Thunder came out of this timeout with nothing to lose as they mounted their comeback with their high intensity press forcing Storm into making mistakes. Once Jackman scored a layup off a Storm turnover, coach Spinks was forced into calling a timeout to stop the Thunder strike and to refocus the tiring Storm players with just under 3 minutes to play. A successful Seth Swalve 3 pointer was crucial after the timeout reducing the Thunder lead to 3 points, which is where Worthing saw themselves in foul trouble, and Storm thriving off free throws to turn the score in their favour. After Sam Newman drained both of his free throws with 10 seconds left to play, a monstrous block on the transition by Charles Acquah Davis saw Storm retain possession with Swalve scoring one of his two free throws. Former Storm player Hafeez Abdul scored his first free throw before forcing a jump ball in favour of the Thunder with 4 seconds left to play and Storm in the lead by 3. Fortunately for Storm, Abdul missed the 3 point attempt which saw Sylla score both of his resulting free throws with 0.1 seconds left of the game. The final buzzer sounded as Storm won the game 95-100, handing Thunder their first loss of the season.
It was a hard fought game, with both teams showing they are capable of battling for the top of the league, which was evident in the brilliant display of basketball from both teams. For Storm they move top of the table with a 9-0 record replacing the Thunder who hold hold a 9-1 record. Storm’s next game is at home to Team Newcastle University on Saturday 17th December, 7pm tip and are also at home to London Sharks in the National Cup on Sunday 18th December 6pm tip. Tickets available for both games at www.stormbasketball.net.
Top Scorers: Aaryn Rai: 30 points , Hakeem Sylla: 24 points, Sam Newman: 13 points
Report by Ollie Heathcote
Photos by Graham Hodges