Hemel Storm defeated the reigning league champions in a double-winning weekend in the north-east.
Storm returned home with the scalp of reigning Division One champions Team Northumbria after a 89-66 triumph on Saturday and a hard-fought 81-71 victory over Team Newcastle University the following day.
The wins moved Hemel into second place in league standings on the same won-lost record as top side Loughborough Riders but with an inferior points difference.
In both of the weekend’s tilts Hemel’s depth was made to pay rich dividends as their bench outscored Northumbria’s 24-11 and Newcastle’s by an impressive 28-9.
Storm produced a sensational opening quarter against the champions on Saturday, forcing a time-out after only four minutes from the home team’s coach Marc Steutel with his side trailing 13-4.
But when the teams returned to the court, the visitors stifling defence and unselfish offence continued.
Aided by three-pointers from AJ Roberts, Jack Burnell and eventual top-scorer Mike Darlow (18 points), Storm’s advantage stretched to 26-12 by the end of the period.
The lead grew to 31-12 on a Burnell three-pointer and a Wayne Yeboah jump-shot early in the second period, before Northumbria mounted a mini 10 -4 revival. Storm hit back with a run of their own and by half-time had extended their lead to 47-30.
The teams traded baskets in the third-quarter as the pace of the game increased and Northumbria were able to get within striking distance at 49-63.
Early in the final stanza Storm’s lead was down to single figures, at 65-57, before they regrouped to dominate play at both ends of the court and held their opponents to just nine more points while pouring in 24 themselves.
A delighted Hemel head coach Robert Youngblood said afterwards: “We were all business; we jumped on them from the start and they were never able to recover from that.
“The guys were fantastic from top to bottom as a team. The teamwork, spirit, pride and chemistry were second to none.
“I thought that Mike [Darlow] and Jack [Burnell] in particular were great and Wayne [Yeboah] is our ‘glue’ guy that you can depend on every week.
“But everyone on the team had at least one assist and proved that they’re prepared to make the extra pass for the good of the team.”
On Sunday Storm had to claw themselves back from their most sluggish start of the season as Newcastle, second from bottom in the league, jumped out to a 22-12 first-half lead.
But after starting the second stanza with three-pointers from Burnell and Courtney Van-Beest, Hemel got a grip of the game with a 16-4 run orchestrated by their dynamic point guard and captain Bode Adeluola who eventually finished as the team’s top scorer with 24 points including four three-pointers.
By half-time the teams were locked at 37-all.
After the break it was all Storm as they turned up the defensive pressure and rained in six long balls to go into the final period ahead 60-51.
A stubborn Newcastle would not surrender and with three minutes to play they trailed 62-68 and Hemel was left to seal a 81-71 victory from the free-throw line as the home team was forced to foul to stop the clock and gain extra possessions.
“We got off to a really slow start,” said Youngblood. “I think we were a little complacent even though I told the guys that we were in for a battle.
“After that first-quarter, we started playing Storm defence for the next three quarters and outscored them by 20.
“Bode was outstanding and carried us at times but this was another battle-tested win early in the season. Two wins from two games in the north-east means you’ve had a great weekend. Onwards and upwards.”
Storm team and scorers v Northumbria: Mike Darlow 18, AJ Roberts 13, Lee Greenan 13, Dave Ajumobi 11, Bode Adeluola 10, Jack Burnell 9, Wayne Yeboah 9, Chuck Duru 6, Courtney Van-Beest, Tom Adorian, Walid Mumuni and Rhyce Donegal.
Storm v Newcastle: Adeluola 24, Ajumobi 16, Darlow 9, Roberts 6, Burnell 6, Yeboah 6, Mumuni 4, Duru 4, Adorian 3, Van-Beest 3, Greenan and Donegal.
Hemel are next in action this Sunday when hosting Worthing Thunder at Sportspace Hemel Hempstead. Tip-off is at 5pm.
Tickets and further information is available via the website www.stormbasket ball.net.