Hemel Storm 89 – 99 Derby Trailblazers
(National League Division One)
Hemel Storm led by as many as 20 points against an under-strength Derby Trailblazers at Hemel Leisure Centre on Saturday before a second-half collapse saw them lose 99-89 and end any hopes of qualifying for the National Championship Play-Offs.
“After a great first half we played down to the competition,” said a frustrated Hemel Coach Robert Youngblood.
“It was too easy for us in that first half and I warned the guys at half-time not to relax because Derby would make a run. But they turned off and it was too late when they tried to turn it on again.”
A win would have earned Vanarama-sponsored Storm a top eight spot and a fifth qualification for post-season play since the Club was promoted to the top flight seven seasons ago but they slipped to tenth place in the fourteen-team table.
“I’m very disappointed for everyone involved with Storm and especially the fans. We let a lot of people down – ourselves included. I’m absolutely gutted,” said the Coach.
Derby were without injured American forward Malcolm Smith the League’s top scorer who averages 26 points per game, and also their third leading scorer Mathew Ward-Hibbert who has netted an average 12 points per outing this term.
From the tip-off and to the delight of their fans Storm raced out to a 16–2 lead as four of their starters – Bode Adeluola, Blayne Freckleton, Tom Adorian and TrayVonn Wright - all found the bottom of the net from a series of free-flowing attacks, and Levi Noel did sterling work on the boards eventually grabbing 11 rebounds.
Derby put a mini run together mostly from the free-throw line as some over-zealous officiating penalised Hemel’s active defence but the Trailblazers could not contain Storm on offence and Hemel closed out the opening quarter with a triple from Will Ashby to lead 27–14.
And it got worse for the visitors. Half way through the second stanza and roared on by the home crowd an Adeluola lay-up and back-to-back Freckleton and Ashby three-pointers went unanswered and moved Hemel into a commanding 42-22 lead before Derby was able to recover a little to 49-36 by half time.
There were little signs of the dramatic turnaround to come as the teams took to the court for the third period. But the visitor’s first four scores were all three pointers as Jake Wesselingh hit three of them and Kayne King sank a fourth.
Hemel’s Wright, Adorian and Freckleton kept their team’s offence ticking over to maintain a 10 point cushion at 66–56 with four minutes of the period remaining.
But in the last four minutes of the third quarter and opening two of the fourth Storm struggled to find variety and rhythm to their offence and lack lustre defence allowed Derby to rack-up a 17-1 run which was completed by a Wesselingh triple that gave the visitors an 80–71 advantage.
Hemel made short runs in response but the Trailblazers were able to edge the period 26–19 to seal the comeback win.
The season-ending loss for Storm saw them paced by 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks from American star Wright, while Bode Adeluola added 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Storm team and scorers: TrayVonn Wright 25, Bode Adeluola 14, Tom Adorian 11, Blayne Freckleton 11, Will Ashby 11, Jack Burnell 7, Jamie Hayes 6, Levi Noel 4.
Photo caption: Storm’s Bode Adeluola finds a way through the crowd.
(Photo: Lin Titmuss)