Holders Storm advance in cup but slip to defeat in the league

Leon Henry in action for Hemel Storm at the weekend. (Pic: Lin Titmuss)
Leon Henry in action for Hemel Storm at the weekend. (Pic: Lin Titmuss)

The defending National Cup champions Hemel Storm cruised into the fourth round of the competition with a 107-80 win over Ipswich at Hemel Leisure Centre on Sunday.

Storm dominated from the tip-off, winning each quarter against their second division visitors and Hemel head coach Robert Youngblood substituted freely throughout, getting all 12 players onto the court.

Fans were treated to some entertaining up-tempo basketball as Storm fired in 14 three-pointers and produced free-flowing fast-break attacks. Top scorer Leon Henry (18 points) led the way as five Storm players chalked-up double figures in scoring.

Hemel will now play away in the next round at Barking Abbey Crusaders on Sunday, October 28.

Sunday’s performance went some way to erasing the disappointment of Storm’s Division One loss the previous night, when they fell to their second league defeat of the season 86-82 away at Thames Valley Cavaliers and remain winless in league play.

Having clawed back 13-point deficits in the first and third periods, Storm played lock-down defence in the final period to win it 25-17 and had all of the momentum, but in the last two minutes they lost a chance to steal victory when they missed five of six free-throws. In contrast, Prince Lartey sealed the win for Cavaliers by hitting his free-throw chances.

The game saw the return from pre-season injury of Hemel’s 6ft 9ins forward Tom Adorian, who grabbed nine rebounds, had two steals, a block and an assist, but could not find his shooting touch, sinking just two of ten attempts.

“Tom just needs to get some more playing time under his belt,” said Youngblood. “It’s really hard to get up to speed after the lay-off he’s had. But we’re all confident he’ll soon return to the kind of performances he put in last season.”

After trailing throughout the opening stanza Hemel took the second period 25-17 to go into half-time just two adrift, 44-46. But after the break Hemel were playing catch-up and their cause was not helped by some agonising close-range misses that allowed Cavaliers to win the period 20-15 and take a 66-58 lead into the last ten minutes.

In a possession-by-possession battle, Storm’s tough defence and improved offence clawed back the deficit to 74-75 in the fourth quarter on the back of three-pointers from Levi Noel and captain Bode Adeluola but they could not make their hard work pay as the normally reliable Will Ashby, Leome Francis and Adeluola all missed from the charity stripe.

Youngblood said: “We know we have to finish at the basket better in open play and although I was pleased with how well we drew fouls and got to the free-throw line, overall we made only 52 percent which is not good enough.”

This Sunday Storm visit Reading Rockets in the National Trophy. Their next home game is on Saturday, October 27, against Leicester Warriors in the league.

Team and scorers v Cavaliers: Blayne Freckleton 23, Bode Adeluola 17, Levi Noel 15, Will Ashby 12, Leome Francis 6, Tom Adorian 4, Tom Martin 3, Jamie Hayes 2, Leon Henry, Jack Burnell, Sam Dunscombe, Ian Berry.

Against Ipswich: Leon Henry 18, Ian Berry 17, Levi Noel 16, Tom Martin 11, Blayne Freckleton 11, Jamie Hayes 8, Sam Dunscombe 6, Bode Adeluola 6, Leome Francis 6, Will Ashby 5, Tom Adorian 3, Jack Burnell.