Storm are ready for tough playoff battle this Sunday

Hemel Storm's main scoring threat AJ Roberts will need to be in top form against Solent. (File pic: Lin Titmuss)
Hemel Storm's main scoring threat AJ Roberts will need to be in top form against Solent. (File pic: Lin Titmuss)

Hemel Storm will be facing a tough challenge when they hit the road to take on the number two seeds in the first round of the end-of-season playoffs this Sunday.

Storm, who have qualified for the eight-team post-season tournament after finishing seventh in National Division One, will be facing a difficult playoff challenge for the second year in a row.

Last year the club qualified in the eighth and final playoff berth which earned them a trip to top seeds Northumbria, which ended in defeat.

This time around Hemel face a trip to second seeds Solent Kestrels, a side they lost to twice in the regular season including a tight 86-87 reverse in Southampton in January and a blowout 87-101 defeat in Hemel just last month.

But Hemel have already proved this season that they can beat anyone on their day after winning the National Trophy cup final in January for the team’s first major silverware in six years.

And in inspirational head coach Robert Youngblood they have one of the fiercest competitors to step onto a British basketball court.

After a weekend off, Younglood’s side has had time to prepare, re-group and get their injury niggles sorted out since their last loss to Solent 11 days ago. “We have a great opportunity to make amends,” Younglood said.

The Hemel league campaign this year was a proverbial game of two halves with the first section of the season seeing Hemel rise to as high as equal top at one stage after firing off six straight wins in October and November.

But the second stage was more up and down, including seven losses in their past 11 league outings.

Storm fans will be hoping to see more of their team’s earlier season form and the kind of performances they pulled out in their glorious cup run to overturn a talented Kestrels side at the weekend.

The game at Solent this Sunday tips off at 4.30pm at the St Mary’s Sports Centre in Southampton.

The club is providing return coach travel to the game from 12.45pm outside the Holiday Inn, Breakspear Way, in Hemel Hempstead.

Limited places are available and to find out if any are left, email carolhumphrey@stormbasketball.net or book online at www.stormbasket ball.net.

The playoff final this year is scheduled for Saturday, April 28, at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester.