A depleted Hemel Storm came within three points of the USA-Select touring team at Hemel Leisure Centre in a pre-season warm-up on Saturday.
Without four potential starters who were sidelined with injuries picked up in early season training, Hemel succumbed 100-97 in a valiant effort.
There were plenty of positive signs that the new up-tempo style of play will be thrilling for fans to watch this season, especially when the squad returns to full fitness.
“I don’t think ‘crisis’ is too strong a word to describe our current [injury] position,” said Storm’s associate head coach Dave Titmuss.
“With our entire front line – Tom Adorian, Leome Francis and Mike Darlow – and guard Leon Noel all missing on Saturday.
“We’re not ready technically yet, but I was pleased with our spirit and commitment, which are important qualities that will stand us in good stead when we start the season in earnest in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Only Darlow is not expected to recover from ankle ligament damage before Storm take on Thames Valley Cavaliers in their season-opening clash at home next Saturday, September 22, in the National Trophy (tip-off 7pm).
And the club is on the verge of signing another quality player from the BBL. An announcement is expected to be made shortly.
Head coach Robert Youngblood, who was delayed in America after visiting family during the summer, will return to the club this week before training camp at the weekend.
On Saturday, never more than three points separated the sides until after the half-time break.
With Hemel trailing 50-47 at the break, some intense defence followed by Hemel, before new signing Blayne Freckleton hit consecutive three-pointers looked to put the hosts in control.
Storm won the third-quarter 28-21 and led 75-71 going into the final stanza.
In the final period the US visitors got back on level terms and the teams then swapped baskets.
With Storm 95-93 ahead as the clock ticked down, Ryan Winkler fired in a heavily-pressured long-range effort to put USA-Select ahead by one point.
Hemel were then forced to foul to stop the clock and the visitors sealed the victory from the free-throw line despite the home team’s efforts to tie with a close Freckleton three-pointer that bounced off the rim.
Storm’s team and scorers: Blayne Freckleton 24, Bode Adeluola 24, Jack Burnell 13, Brett Cannon 12, Will Ashby 8, Jamie Hayes 6, Sam Dunscombe 6, Ian Berry 4, Oliver Ladlow.
For tickets to the National Trophy tie or more information, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.