Hemel Storm enjoyed a fine double-winning weekend, moving into fifth spot in the National League Division One table and advancing to the quarter-finals of the National Cup after two wins in as many days.
Hemel will now take on Thames Valley Cavaliers on the road in the last eight of the cup after the Berkshire-based team powered to a 93-65 victory over Essex Leopards.
Despite being without key players Bode Adeluola, Dave Ajumobi and young hot-shot guard Jack Burnell in Bury on Saturday, Hemel still demolished a struggling Lancashire Spinners team 92-47 in a game where the hosts were outscored and outplayed in every quarter including a dominant 25-9 final period.
In stark contrast, Sunday’s fourth-round National Cup clash in Barking against the Kent Crusaders was a high-level possession-by-possession battle, with no quarter given or asked for by either side.
Storm were back to full-strength and throughout the contest big individual offensive and defensive plays were made at both ends of the court.
Storm held a slim five-point lead (26-21) at the end the first quarter after successful free-throws from Courtney Van-Beest.
The teams then drew the next two periods, 15 points apiece and 14-all, respectively.
Both teams locked down on defence and made every possession and every shot as difficult as possible.
Storm head coach Robert Youngblood substituted freely so that his team was able to maintain the kind of intense defensive pressure that is becoming a Hemel trademark, together with their unselfish attacking play.
Youngblood was forced to bench the recently-signed and in-form AJ Roberts when he picked up early fouls in the first-half, but the American combo-guard from California returned to the court in the second-half to end the game as Storm’s second leading scorer with ten points and he also assisted on four other baskets.
A dunk and free-throws from Hemel’s top-scorer on the day, 7ft centre Lee Greenan (23 points), opened some daylight between the sides and gave Hemel its biggest lead at 66-57, before the Crusaders fought back and cut the margin to six on a Caleb Fuller three-pointer with under four minutes to play.
But on Storm’s next two possessions captain Adeluola broke lose to score crucial back-to-back three-pointers and the visitors could sense victory, much to the delight of their enthusiastic band of travelling supporters.
A delighted Youngblood said after the game: “I think it was a great team win.
“In the end, our defence prevailed and we’ll continue to build on that in practice.
“Before the game we felt the keys to winning were to hold them under 70 points, dominate from the inside with great rebounding and inside play, and really take care of the ball.
“And we achieved all three goals.”
The coach had particular praise for Greenan: “Lee was fantastic, when he plays like that and our team performs at this level, then I believe that we’re on our way to some silverware this season.”
But Youngblood was quick to point out that everyone who was put into the game contributed to the victory.
“When we needed to sub five-for-five at one point, the strategy was successful and allowed us to stay in control,” Youngblood added.
Team and scorers v Lancashire Spinners: A J Roberts 20, Chuck Duru 14, Lee Greenan 13, Mike Darlow 12, Wayne Yeboah 10, Tom Adorian 8, Courtney Van-Beest 6, Rhyce Donegal 5 and Walid Mumuni 4.
Team and scorers v Kent Crusaders: Greenan 23, Roberts 10, Darlow 9, Dave Ajumobi 8, Bode Adeluola 8, Van-Beest 8, Yeboah 6, Jack Burnell 3, Adorian 2, Donegal, Mumuni and Duru.
Storm have a tough road trip to the north-east this weekend when they take on reigning league champions Team Northumbria on Saturday before facing Team Newcastle University the next day, both games in National League Division One.
Storm’s next home game at Sportspace is against Worthing Thunder in the league on Sunday, November 12.
For tickets or further information, visit the website at www.stormbasketball.net.