Overtime pays dividends as Storm battle back to tame the Leopards

Hemel Storm guard Nik Rhodes on his way to a 33-point haul against the Essex Leopards. Picture (c) Lin Titmuss
Hemel Storm guard Nik Rhodes on his way to a 33-point haul against the Essex Leopards. Picture (c) Lin Titmuss
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Hemel Storm mounted a magnificent second half comeback at Sportspace to beat Essex Leopards 113-104 after overtime as they completed a clean sweep over their fierce rivals.

The game got off to an even start, with the score 8-7 to the away side after three minutes. A three-pointer by Nik Rhodes, on his way to another huge night, kept Storm within a single point at 12-13 halfway through the first quarter.

Seven minutes in, Essex had eased their lead out to three points, which they extended to seven at the end of the first period with the score at 27-20 in their favour.

With Hemel not playing at their best, they were indebted to Rhodes, who scored 10 points in the quarter, to keep them within striking distance of their opponents.

Essex came flying out of the traps to start the second period, and with only two minutes played, they led by 17 points.

Another three by Rhodes – his first of four triples in the quarter – kept Hemel in the game and another one got the deficit back to 11 four minutes in.

With Bode Adeluola getting called for his third foul, things looked bleak for Hemel – but as many teams have learnt this season, you should never underestimate the power of the Storm.

Further threes by Rhodes and Walid Mumuni meant the home side went in at the interval trailing by just seven points at 49-56.

The game turned in Hemel’s favour in the third quarter, with Mumuni tying the scores at 58-58 with his second triple two minutes in.

By halfway through the period, though, Storm were ruing a succession of missed free-throws as they trailed by six at 60-66.

Two quick triples by Adeluola and Simon Kearney tied the game once again, however, and a short range jump-shot by the latter gave Storm their first lead since the opening couple of minutes of the contest.

Adeluola then sunk his second three-pointer of the quarter to open that lead to four points at 76-72 by the end of the period.

Adeluola started the fourth as he finished the third with yet another triple and the home side seemed to be on their way to victory.

Back came Essex, though, and Storm held just a one-point lead with less than two minutes to play.

A Leopards triple with just 90 seconds left gave the away side a three-point lead and a chance to finish the game off, but it was back to just one after Adeluola hit two free-throws.

A poor turnover by Storm gave Essex an easy lay-up, and once again they seemed to be on the way to the win, however Mumuni saved the day for the home team with a late, late jump-shot to take the game into overtime at 96-all.

The excitement of the fourth quarter was not mirrored by the five minutes of overtime as Adeluola took his team home with nine points and two stunning assists as the Leopards just could not get back in the game.

It was fitting that Adeluola rounded off the win with a lay-up with just 16s on the clock to knock the stuffing out of the visitors and give Hemel the win.

“We went into overtime with all of the momentum because Leopards had failed to close out the game when they had the opportunity,” said a delighted Hemel co-coach Dave Titmuss.

“Even when we were down 15 points at one stage, I knew we’d get some big stops on defence and that’s what put us in a position to win.

“We’re 3 and 0 against the Leopards this season and the win takes us another big step towards qualification for the end of season play-offs. Our crowd was fantastic, they just willed us to victory.”

It was a magnificent one-two from the Storm, with Rhodes and Adeluola both scoring 33 points on a night that the noisy home fans will not forget in a hurry.

Mumuni grabbed 18, Tom Adorian added 11 and Damian Edwards and Kearney hit nine apiece.

Nick Allin, Michael Darlow and Kenroy Wood also saw some court time and played their part in the victory.

Storm’s next home game is at Sportspace on Saturday at 7pm against the Westminster Warriors in a National League Division One game.

Tickets and more information can be found at www.stormbasketball.net