Hemel Storm opened the new basketball season with a last gasp victory against local rivals Essex Leopards on Friday evening.
In a National Trophy clash Hemel, trailing by two points with three seconds remaining, had side-line possession and got the ball to new signing Leon Henry who hit an off-balance three-pointer just before the final buzzer.
The home team had gone ahead by two points with three seconds on the clock when Hemel’s new head coach Dave Allin called a time-out to set-up the last play.
“We had a number of options to score but passed up an easy two-pointer that would have sent the game into overtime and instead Leon broke free for the winner,” said a delighted Coach Allin.
In a defence dominated game only a few points separated the teams throughout the contest and in the end it was Storm’s marginally better shooting percentage that was the crucial difference.
Hemel edged the first quarter 17–16 as starters Wayne Yeboah, Leon Henry, Nick Allin, Walid Mumuni and Mike Darlow showed early promise. But by half-time Leopards had edged ahead by a single basket to lead 36–34.
Storm returned to the court after the interval determined to break the game open and led late in the period by eight before Essex chipped back to 52–48 going into the final quarter and the game’s dramatic climax.
Coach Allin, who is integrating six new players into the Hemel squad, was realistic about Storm’s performance: “Being the first game of the season I was pleased with how things went, everyone made a contribution.
“Although technically it was far from perfect the effort and chemistry of the team bodes well for the season.
“We won’t get carried away, the result could have easily been different but I’m excited about the way the squad is looking and how quickly the new signings are settling in.”
Storm’s team and scorers: Henry 13, Darlow 12, Burnell 11, Yeboah 11, Adorian 10, Chukwuma Duru 8, Mumuni (capt) 2, Allin 2, Rodwell, Ejele, Castro, Williams.
A sell-out crowd at Sportspace in Hemel on Saturday saw Storm take on the touring USA- Select squad in a friendly match that Hemel used to introduce Storm’s new players. In a free-scoring game the athletic and talented tourists used a 25–18 third quarter to set-up a 97–83 win.
Hemel are next at home on Saturday, October 1 against the all-Lithuanian squad, London Lituanica, tip-off 7pm. For tickets and further information visit www.stormbasketball.net