Hemel Storm 90 – 91 Leicester Warriors (National League Division One)
Hemel Storm came within two seconds of pulling off a third consecutive National League Division One victory on Saturday. But with the score tied at 90-all they conceded free-throws to Leicester Warriors’ American guard Taylor Johnson who was fouled as he drove to the basket.
Johnson sank his first attempt but missed the second to seal a 91 – 90 last gasp win for the home side.
Hemel trailed 68 – 73 going into the final period but their free-flowing offence helped them fight back and send the game into its dramatic climax.
A Bode Adeluola lay-up with less than a minute remaining gave the visitors an 89 – 87 edge.
A determined defensive stand on Leicester’s next possession won the ball back for Hemel and once again it was Adeluola who broke down the home team’s defence but this time he was fouled as he attempted a lay-up. He sank one of his two free-throws to put his team 90 – 87 ahead.
With 40 seconds remaining Leicester’s Johnson broke free and his three-point attempt swished through the basket to tie the score at 90 each. On their final possession Storm worked the ball to their sharp-shooting guard Blayne Freckleton but his jump-shot bounced off the basket to give Warriors the chance to win.
Hemel Head Coach Robert Youngblood, a noted defensive specialist in his playing days, said: “We have the potential to be a much better defensive team than we’re showing and that will be our focus from here on in.
“Right now we’re putting too much pressure on ourselves at the offensive end and although we’re very capable of scoring well, it’s a tough way for us to win because our defensive lapses are constantly giving opponents the chance to stay with us.
“We’ve just got to lock down on defence in our remaining games and do all of those little things that make such a big difference to winning and losing.”
With other results at the weekend going to form, Vanarama-sponsored Storm remain one place above the relegation zone in twelfth position but they still have 11 games to play so can potentially climb the table and fight for a spot in the end-of-season, top-eight National Championship Play-Offs.
Each of Storm’s starters on Saturday hit double-figure scoring with recent signing, 6’ 7” American TrayVonn Wright leading the pack with 25 points (seven rebounds and two assists), Adeluola on 22, Levi Noel 14, Freckleton 12 and centre Leome Francis sinking 10 against his former Club.
Hemel started brightly but although they ended the first period 25 – 22 ahead there were early signs that they were struggling to contain a recently strengthened Leicester side.
In a possession by possession battle Leicester were able to consistently snare offensive rebounds and get second shot attempts. A Martin Gayle two pointer gave the home team a 48 – 46 half-time lead.
The home side extended their lead in the third period to as many as eight points before Hemel’s fight back in the final stanza which was led by some timely scoring by Wright.
Associate Head Coach Dave Titmuss speaking about Hemel’s defensive woes commented: “Sometimes even really good defence is beaten by terrific offensive play but that’s not always what happens in our case.
“But we have a great opportunity now to really improve defensively both individually and as a team. When we don’t have lapses at the defensive end, we’re as good as any team in the country.”
Storm team and scorers: TrayVonn Wright 25, Bode Adeluola 22, Levi Noel 14, Blayne Freckleton 12, Leome Francis 10, Will Ashby 3, Jamie Hayes 2, Tom Adorian 2, Leon Henry, Jack Burnell, Shaquille Lewis.
Storm are at Hemel Leisure Centre on Saturday against Essex Leopards in another crucial National League Division One game, tip-off 7pm. For tickets go to the 'tickets & shop' tab above
Top: Bode Adeluola, broke down Leicester’s defence
Above: TrayVonn Wright led all scorers against Leicester with 25 points
(Photos: Lin Titmuss).