Hemel Storm slipped to an 86-72 defeat in a hard fought contest on Saturday evening against a strong Worthing Thunder side going for their second consecutive National Trophy win.
While not at their best, Hemel stayed with their hosts until early in the fourth quarter as the Thunder pressed home their advantage late on.
The home side opened the first quarter with consecutive three-pointers before Storm debutante Nik Rhodes got his side on the scoreboard with a lay-up following a strong run up the court.
Skipper Simon Kearney hit his team’s first three-pointer with three and a half minutes left in the first quarter to keep Storm in contention at 20-14.
Hemel got back to within one point with less than a minute to play in the period on a jump shot by that man Rhodes again, but it was the hosts who went in at the first break with a slender three-point lead at 25-22.
By halfway through the second quarter, Worthing had increased the lead to five points at 36-31 and, try as they might, Storm could get no closer,
A triple right on the buzzer by the home team meant Hemel trailed by eight points at half-time at 36-44.
The two sides matched each other point for point in the third period, with Storm just six points in arrears with over three minutes left.
Kearney’s second three-pointer of the game brought Storm back to just three points behind at 61-58 with 25 seconds left, but once again a late score by Worthing led to them ending the quarter up by five at 63-58.
Having started the new season’s preparation late, Hemel’s stamina finally started to fade in the final period and Thunder soon opened up a 13-point lead.
But as tired as they were, Storm kept taking to the fight to their hosts and trailed by just 10 points at 75-65 with almost four minutes to go.
Turnovers were hurting Hemel now, though, and with the home side taking advantage it looked as though the final score could be very one-sided indeed.
But once again the away side dug deep and late threes by Kearney and Walid Mumuni kept the final deficit to 14 points at 86-72 in the home team’s favour.
Storm head coach Dave Titmuss said: “We’ve only been together as a squad for a week and it showed against Worthing. Right now we’re trying to settle on various combinations and roles for the players which is going to take time – there are no short cuts.
“The coaching staff did learn a lot from the game that will help us be more efficient and the two double-header weekends coming up will give us the opportunity to begin gelling as a team under match conditions.
“Right now it’s all about focusing in practice on those things that will put us in a position to win as the season progresses.”
Hemel Storm’s next home game is at Sportspace on Saturday at 7pm against London Lituanica in a National Trophy game.
Tickets and more information can be found at www.stormbasketball.net