Hemel Storm 89 – 90 Loughborough Riders (National Cup Semi-Final)
National Cup holders Hemel Storm came agonising close in Loughborough on Sunday to reaching this year’s Final but holding an 87 – 74 lead with just over five minutes to play their offence dried-up and they lost 90 – 89 to the home town Riders.
Vanarama-sponsored Storm led by double digits several times during this semi-final match-up before Loughborough’s fourth quarter comeback and what proved to be the game-winning lay-up by Alex Roberts.
Hemel had a last-gasp chance to seal victory despite trailing by a point. With ten seconds left they had possession and Storm Head Coach Robert Youngblood called time-out to set-up a potential game winning play. But Levi Noel’s final attempt hit the rim and bounced out.
“I’m absolutely gutted,” said Youngblood. “I thought we executed the game plan to perfection until the last five minutes when we started to play individual ball rather than team ball.
“We attacked them all game and they couldn’t handle it until in the last five minutes we stopped doing what had given us the lead. In those last minutes we were playing not to lose instead of playing to win.
And the Coach admitted: “This loss will hurt for a while but we must pick ourselves up and move on, we have to start climbing up the League table and get ourselves in position to qualify for the Play-Offs”.
In a competitive first period Storm consistently cut through Loughborough’s pressing defence and powerful Leome Francis was causing the home team problems close to basket. Lightening quick guard Leon Henry rounded off another impressive Storm fast break to put his side 32 – 28 ahead as the period ended.
And in the second quarter the visitors took their biggest lead of the game, 47 – 32, on the back of consecutive three-pointers by their eventual top scorer Blayne Freckleton which he drained before Loughborough could get back and organise their defence.
But even at this stage there were worrying signs that Storm were being badly out-rebounded.
Associate Head Coach Dave Titmuss said: “Overall we shot a better percentage than Riders – especially from three-point range – but they ended up grabbing fifteen more rebounds than us which gave them extra possessions, and in a one point game this proved crucial.”
By half-time Hemel’s lead was cut to four points, 53 – 49, but they came out for the third period with renewed determination and pushed their lead out again.
A driving lay-up by Freckleton gave Storm a double-digit advantage at 69 – 58 which they held until Riders were able to claw a point back but still trail 70 – 80 going into the last stanza.
And Storm was able to maintain their ten point cushion at 87 – 77 with five minutes left before their offence started to stutter.
A huge three-pointer from Riders’ Lucien Cristofis and a lay-up by Niall Harris completed the young home team’s recovery and cut Storm’s advantage to one point with just over a minute left as the game entered its dramatic climax.
Freckleton and Francis led the way for Storm. Freckleton led all scorers with 25 points and five assists, and there was a big double-double from Francis who had 24 points and 11 rebounds. Bode Adeluola also contributed 13 points off the bench.
Storm team and scorers: Blayne Freckleton 25, Leome Francis 24, Bode Adeluola 13, Levi Noel 8, Jack Burnell 6, Leon Henry 6, Tom Adorian 4, Tom Martin 2, Jamie Hayes 1, Sam Dunscombe, Shaquille Lewis.
Storm are at Hemel Leisure Centre this Saturday in their last fixture before Christmas, a crucial National League Division One clash against Manchester Magic, tip-off 7pm. For tickets go to the "tickets & shop" tab above.
Storm’s Blayne Freckleton hit five three-pointers
(Picture: Lin Titmuss)
STORM II FIGHT BACK TWICE AND TAKE OVERTIME VICTORY
Hemel Storm II 81 - 80 London Lewisham Thunder (Overtime) (National League Division Four)
Hemel’s second team snatched a dramatic overtime win over London Lewisham Thunder at JFK School on Sunday moving them into the playoff positions in National League Division 4.
It was a sluggish start for the home team who struggled to cope with the visitors’ size and offensive power. By the end of the first quarter Thunder had amassed a 10 point lead at 27-17. And things didn’t get any better in the second quarter as the lead was extended to 17 after the first 3 minutes of the period.
Storm II Head Coach, Dave Allin, made an adjustment to the defence and a huge collective effort restricted Lewisham’s scoring and triggered an 11-2 run to cut the half time deficit to just 6 points.
The recovery was short-lived as London responded after the break and stretched the lead back to 15 points. With several of Hemel’s team in foul trouble the chances of another comeback were looking slim but a change to a smaller line-up and a scoring spree from veteran guard and former first team captain Simon ‘Spud’ Kearney closed the gap to 5 at the end of the third quarter.
In a tense last quarter Hemel continued to chip away at the lead and two free throws from Kearney tied the game at 69 with just a couple of seconds remaining sent the game into overtime. .
Storm’s Daryl Craine scored the first points in the additional period to give the home team their first lead since the opening play of the game and the turnaround looked to be complete when Kearney converted yet another jump shot for a 4 point lead. But Thunder responded once more and tied the scores at 75 to set up a nail-biting final two minutes.
Hemel edged into the lead once more forcing the visitors to foul as time was running out. Two free throws from Nick Allin restored a four point lead with just seconds remaining. A long three pointer from Lewisham cut the gap to one point but there was no time left.
Coach Allin said: “It’s not often that a team can recover from a significant deficit twice in a game. Spud was terrific for us today but it was pure desire and collective effort at the defensive end that turned things around for us.
“We went with a small unit at the end of the game which gave us some rebounding challenges but it opened things up for us offensively. It’s a great way to end the year and puts us in the mix at the top end of the table.”
Storm II team and scorers: Simon Kearney 31, Nick Allin 19, Daryl Craine 11, Shaun Allin 10, Raj Patel 5, Ben Pearce 4, Mike Coumas 1, Dominic Charles, Ewan Kassir.