Hemel Storm were edged out 97-93 at Solent Kestrels in an intense shoot-out in National League Division One on Saturday.
Despite the Southampton team hitting four three-pointers in the closing minutes of the second period to take a 10 point lead (56 – 46) into the half-time break, a determined Hemel fought back from the restart – triggered by intense defence – holding Solent to just one point in six minutes play.
And when Storm’s Wayne Yeboah scored from a close range shot his team’s comeback was complete with a narrow 58-57 lead.
Hemel coach Dave Allin said: “Solent got a hold on the game with that flurry of three pointers in the second quarter and we didn’t do a good job in recognising and dealing with the shift in momentum.
“But our players deserve great credit for the way they started the second half.
“In the break we talked about increasing our defensive pressure and we did exactly that. Getting back on level terms was a great boost to our confidence.”
But Hemel’s lead was brief and by the end of the third period Solent had regained the advantage at 72-70 to set-up a competitive, see-saw fourth quarter.
No more than four points separated the teams throughout the final stanza and with less than three minutes to play Hemel’s man-of-the-match Carl Josey, who had come off the bench to eventually top-score for his side with 22 points, hit a deep three-pointer to bring his side within one, 89-90.
Missed shots and turnovers by Hemel in the crucial final two minutes cost them dearly as Solent was able to hang-on and wrap-up the win led by their American star Marquis Mathis who led all scorers with 26 points at a 45 per cent success rate, and grabbed 12 rebounds.
A reflective Allin said: “I was impressed with all but the last couple of minutes of the game.
“I really thought we had a great chance of claiming the victory but was disappointed that in those two minutes we didn’t execute what we set out to do. That’s what makes the loss hard to swallow.
“The result was disappointing but we’re not panicking. It’s early in the season and we’re improving week by week. Looking at results so far, it’s going to be a very competitive league.”
Hemel take on Reading Rockets at Sportspace on Sunday in the fourth round of the National Cup, tip-off 5pm, and will look to improve on their 79-98 Division One loss to the Berkshire Club two weeks ago.
For tickets and information visit www.stormbasketball.net
Storm team and scorers v Solent: Josey 22, Yeboah 21, Adorian 17, Henry 15, Mumuni 9, Darlow 6, Allin 3, Burnell, Rodwell, Duru, Williams, Wood.