It was a case of “after the Lord Mayor’s show” on Sunday as National Cup heroes Hemel Storm were downed on the road at Kent Crusaders.
The previous weekend provided a joyous moment for the club as Storm earned their first national silverware since 2012 when beating Manchester in the National Cup final.
But Storm (8-6) came to Earth with a bump on Sunday against a young tenth-ranked Kent (6-9) side in a tight 76-79 reverse at Barking Abbey.
In a further concerning development, Storm’s cup final MVP award-winner AJ Roberts had to be replaced in the closing minutes of this National League Division One clash after the combo-guard picked up an injury.
Roberts was hurt when driving to the basket and fell awkwardly. His blistering performance helped Storm lift the trophy in East London and he will now have an assessment and treatment on an ankle ahead of this Saturday’s game against Lancashire Spinners.
Hemel’s aggressive attacks at the hoop forced Kent to foul throughout the game on Sunday but Storm couldn’t capitalise from the free-throw line and ended up with a season-low 11 points from 21 attempts at the charity stripe.
In a game where the lead sea-sawed throughout, Hemel controlled the first and third quarters by scores of 21-13 and 24-16, but the hosts won the second and the fourth, 24-15 and 26-16 respectively.
Early in the final quarter Storm led by seven points 62-55 after a Tom Adorian jump shot but then couldn’t extend the advantage as their shooting touch deserted them and Crusaders fought back.
With a little over a minute remaining, a Micah Savery Richards field goal put Kent 77-76 up and as Hemel fouled to stop the clock and get extra possessions, Crusaders did what Storm couldn’t and nailed their free-throw shots to seal the win.
Storm coach Robert Youngblood said afterwards: “All credit to Kent and how they stuck to the task but it felt like we just made so many uncharacteristic mistakes that, to a certain extent, we beat ourselves.
“We didn’t shoot well [39 per cent success rate] from the floor or the free-throw line and in a close game those misses really hurt you.
“It was a loss we’re all disappointed about but we’re still on track to achieve our goals this season; we have the National Cup in the trophy cabinet and we’re headed for a top-four finish in the league which will give us home advantage in the playoffs – that’s our focus now.”
Storm team and scorers: Bode Adeluola 14, AJ Roberts 13, Mike Darlow 9, Lee Greenan 9, Jack Burnell 9, Tom Adorian 8, Courtney Van-Beest 6, Dave Ajumobi 3, Chuck Duru 2, Wayne Yeboah 1 and Rhyce Donegal.
Storm will be looking to get back to winning ways in the league at Sportspace this Saturday against winless bottom side Lancashire Spinners (0-15). Fans will also get the chance to see the National Cup on display. Tip-off is at 7pm.
For tickets, visit website www.stormbasketball.net.
n One-day basketball camps led by Storm player Jack Burnell and coach Phil Russell are being held during half-term on Wednesday, February 14, and Thursday, February 15, at Hemel’s JFK School from 9am-3pm.
To book, phone 07881 904 861 or visit www.stormbasket ball.net/junior-camps.