Hemel Storm moved up to fourth place in the National League Division One table as they beat Kent Crusaders 82-72 in front of a huge crowd at a jam-packed Sportspace on Saturday night.
After a frantic first few minutes Hemel led by seven points at 10-3, and two three-pointers by Nik Rhodes extended the advantage to 16-5 soon afterwards.
Another three by Rhodes pushed the lead to 21-8 with just two minutes left in the quarter, but Kent managed to reduce this to 21-12 by the end of the period.
Rhodes had scored 13 points in the quarter, and Damian Edwards – getting his first start of the season – had chipped in with a host of rebounds at both ends of the court.
The second quarter started with a huge 10-0 run by the Crusaders that gave them the lead, and only a long jump shot by Rhodes got the home side on the scoreboard.
Hemel slowly got their game together and had a three-point lead at 27-24 half way through, but back came Kent to tie the scores a minute later.
Neither side could assert their authority in the last few minutes of the half, and the teams went in at half-time tied at 31-31.
The scores stayed level for the first few minutes of the second half, before two long three-pointers by co-captain Simon Kearney edged the home side in front by four after six minutes.
Storm then found their shooting boots, and threes by Rhodes, co-captain Walid Mumuni and another by Kearney gave them a crucial lead at 59-48 inside the final minute of the quarter, before a final lay-up gave Hemel a 61-48 lead with 10 minutes to play.
This young and feisty Crusaders side, including three ex-Storm juniors, were not just going to give up, however.
Right from the start of the fourth quarter they pressed their hosts and, with four minutes of the game left, the lead was back to just four at 63-59.
But yet another triple by Rhodes calmed the nerves of the players, and the noisy crowd and helped push the Hemel lead back out to seven.
Once again the Kent side came back and, with three minutes left, Hemel only led by four at 68-64.
Storm were not going to be denied, though, and Bode Adeluola iced the game from the free-throw line as the Crusaders had to foul time after time to try to stop the clock.
Scorers for Hemel were Rhodes with a mammoth 36, including five 3s, Kearney with 17, and Adeluola with 13. Mumuni got 7, Tom Adorian 5 and Edwards 4 to go with 10 rebounds.
Nick Allin, Kenroy Wood, Craig Percival and a sickly Michael Darlow also contributed to the win.
Storm’s next home game is at Sportspace on Saturday, February 13 at 7pm against the Essex Leopards in a National League Division One game.
Tickets and more information can be found at www.stormbasketball.net