Leopards pounce to maintain their hold over Hemel Storm
Hemel Storm gave everything they could against a powerful and aggressive Essex Leopards side at Sportspace but ran out of steam as their old foes streaked away to yet another victory over them.
There was no hint of the final outcome in the first three quarters, with never more than a handful of points between the two sides until Leopards broke the game open, mainly from the free-throw line in the final period.
Storm centre Tom Adorian ruled the roost at both ends of the court for the first quarter, scoring 11 points, with almost as many rebounds and a steal to go with them.
The scores were level after four minutes’ play and once again two minutes later as whatever Trilogy-it sponsored Storm did to edge in front, the Leopards fought back at once.
A late three-pointer by Hemel guard Matt Hanson gave his side a five-point cushion at 25-20 at the conclusion of the period.
But back came the away team to start the second quarter scoring points but picking up several fouls as they went.
A well-worked three from Walid Mumuni maintained Storm’s lead but the Leopards just would not go away and they took their first lead of the game with six minutes left in the half.
A huge slam dunk by Tom Adorian near the end of the quarter meant Hemel went in at half-time leading by three points at 45-42.
The teams continued to trade baskets in the third quarter as first Essex then Hemel had bursts of scoring.
Michael Darlow hit a three-pointer followed by a long two to keep Storm in front, and another slam by Adorian opened up Hemel’s biggest lead of the game at 52-45.
Back came the Leopards before Hemel managed to ease their way back in front to lead by just two points after three periods at 58-56.
The fourth quarter belonged to Essex, though, as they scored point after point from the free-throw line as Storm struggled to maintain the same level of defence they had for the previous three-quarters.
Several Storm turnovers hampered their cause and Essex opened up a near 20-point lead. With time running out the home side finished the contest by scoring the final five points but they were well beaten by then.
Storm head coach Steve Darlow said: “It was a frustrating loss on many levels, but, once more, I was impressed with the attitude and effort of the players.
“We have been adjusting our offensive style since the departure of our leading scorer (Bode Adeluola) and this takes time but there is definitely promise.
“Unfortunately as the game progressed we found difficulty adjusting to the increasingly aggressive and physical nature of the Leopards defence which has highlighted a weakness and we will work on that in practice.
“One of my main frustrations is that we haven’t been able to show our home fans the progress we have made.
“We did play extremely well in certain periods against Leopards but could not maintain the momentum. However, we’re seeing improvements in players like Michael (Darlow) and Matt Hanson whose consistency has been impressive of late.
“Our recent away form has been excellent and we are desperate to show our home fans the improvements we’ve been making since the departure of Bode.
“Now that the Trophy pool games have finished we can focus on the league. One of our main early targets was the quarter -finals of the Trophy; a box we have ticked.
“Our next short term target is to maintain a winning record in the league. This coming weekend is a big one for us.”
Storm’s next home game is at Sportspace on Sunday, November 30th at 5pm against the Newham Neptunes in a national League Division One game.
Tickets and more information can be found at www.stormbasketball.net