Hemel Storm’s hopes of reaching the semi-finals of the National Trophy came to an end on Saturday when they lost to London Lituanica 87–93 despite a magnificent third quarter fight back.
A devastating five minute spell before half-time saw the Hemel players lose their focus and allow the visitors to score at will and surge ahead to take a 56 – 40 lead into the half-time break.
A magnificent fight-back in the third quarter led by Hemel’s eventual top-scorer Leon Henry (24 points) brought the packed crowd at Sportspace to its feet as Storm worked tirelessly to claw back the deficit to just three points, 70–73.
But that’s as close as Storm could get as dominant rebounding by the all-Lithuanian visitors gave them extra possession and allowed them to trade baskets in the final period and move on to the semi-finals.
Storm went into the game on top of Pool 2 of the Trophy after beating Essex Leopards and Westminster Warriors knowing that a win would see them through to the final four of the competition. However a loss would result in a three-way tie with Essex and Lituanica which would be resolved by points difference.
A frustrated Storm Head Coach Dave Allin said: “For 35 minutes of this game we more than matched our opponent. We were really disappointed with our defensive lapses in the last five minutes of the first half which gave us a mountain to climb.
“But the team showed tremendous character and to their credit very nearly got back on terms.
“Our team was a bit depleted today due to injury and illness but the eight players that took to the court all made excellent contributions. The offensive performances from Leon, Tom (Adorian) and Jack (Burnell) deserve special mention.
“Lituanica have size and strength in every position and are very well organised so we must take lots of positives from our performance but there’s no doubt there will be an emphasis on defence in practice this week.
“Overall, I’m happy with the progress we’ve made through the Trophy pool games. We still need to improve but I’m confident we’ll do so as we head into the League games starting with Reading next week.”
Storm team and scorers v Lituanica: Henry 24, Adorian 19, Burnell 16, Mumuni 14, Yeboah 7, Duru 5, Rodwell 2, Ejele, Allin, Wood.
Hemel start their National League Division One campaign at home on Saturday against the Reading Rockets, tip-off 7pm. For tickets and information visit www.stormbasketball.net