Storm downed by the Dragons

​Hemel Storm’s title hopes suffered a damning blow at the hands of Bradford Dragons on Saturday night, as the visitors claimed a comfortable 81-99 victory.
Taylor Johnson in action for Storm against Bradford. Photo: Matt Cook.Taylor Johnson in action for Storm against Bradford. Photo: Matt Cook.
Taylor Johnson in action for Storm against Bradford. Photo: Matt Cook.

Storm were depleted in numbers, but a fully fit and fighting Bradford side made them pay as they battled tenaciously and came out on top.

Hakeem Sylla was on international duty and Brayden Inger remained injured, leaving Darien Nelson-Henry as the sole presence under the basket. Crucially, Nelson-Henry found himself in early foul trouble leaving a constant mismatch inside and left Storm lacking a suitable defensive resistance to halt the Dragons.

Despite not being blessed with an array of height themselves, Bradford played intelligent basketball to exploit their opponents’ weakness and cut through Storm at ease.

However, Storm’s absentees can’t be used to hide their own frailties. In truth, they were careless on the ball with a series of costly turnovers and their defence was weak. On too many occasions the Dragons found themselves unchallenged at the rim, with the home side seemingly relying on someone else being there to do their work.

Offensively, it was an incohesive, disjointed showing. Passes were often left unanswered and Storm struggled to get into their stride. They failed to settle into Coach Clark’s patterns of play leaving them unable to effectively utilise their key threats.

Initially it seemed like a familiar tale may unfold, with the returning Taylor Johnson claiming seven early points on his first night back at the Dome.

Veron Eze picked up his first start of the campaign, and did his best to make up for the missing Sylla with 16, but it was the other end of the court letting his team down. Bradford picked up 29 first quarter points at a canter to take a two point lead at the first break.

A similar story unfurled in the second period, as Bradford’s big names began to earn their money. Justin Williams and Jordan Whelan both hit from downtown to give their side a 47-54 half time lead.

Storm struggled to close the deficit and the margin grew to an ominous 21 as Williams sealed the quarter with a treble on the buzzer.

Storm chipped away at the gap but failed to find a big run to get them within touching distance. Taylor Johnson led the home scoring with 23 and Eze had 16.

Thames Valley Cavaliers visit the StormDome on Saturday evening.

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