Hemel Storm defend play-off crown by beating Reading Rockets again

​Hemel Storm successfully defended their play-off crown as they came through another season-ending thriller against Reading Rockets on Sunday.
Hemel Storm celebrate their play-off win. Photo: England Basketball.Hemel Storm celebrate their play-off win. Photo: England Basketball.
Hemel Storm celebrate their play-off win. Photo: England Basketball.

For the second week in a row they survived a shot on the buzzer, sending hearts into mouths, but prevailed victorious, sparking euphoric celebrations in Manchester in an 87-84 win.

Basketball England’s showpiece event rounded off with the Division One men in action and both teams’ fantastic followings were always going to make for a good spectacle. The game didn’t disappoint and remained close throughout, both sides showing their quality and wrestled for control of the tie.

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Storm’s opponents, the Rockets, were seeded fourth, one below Hemel, but came into the final after derailing league champions Derby Trailblazers’ treble hopes. Unfortunately for them, after an inspired showing, it was a loss marking two unsuccessful finals this campaign and for the second year running their play-off campaign ended at the buzzer against Storm.

Sam Newman picked up his second MVP award in three days, after claiming the Storm Fans’ MVP title in Friday night’s End of Season Awards, and it felt a fitting end to his fourth year at the club where he has emerged as a real talisman.

An understated, but crucial, figure in last year’s unbeaten season, Newman took the transitional period upon his shoulders and has led the squad in fine style, both on and off the court this year.

A phenomenal all-round stat-line of 18 points, eight assists, five rebounds and five steals capped off a terrific season and he exerted tremendous control to take his side over the line in the most tense of finales.

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Darien Nelson-Henry also starred as he posted a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds.

It was close to heartache though, as come the closing stages they were within one shot of the game after Sam Newman’s free-throw. That left them seven seconds to make-up three points, and a frenetic blast of basketball saw the Rockets’ miss two shots but claim two offensive rebounds before Elijah Maynard’s effort rattled around the rim and dropped out, marking back-to-back Playoff wins for Storm.

In a year where Storm struggled initially, battled through adversity of squad changes and injury mid-season, Mark Clark led his troops through the fight and emerged triumphant at the last. The hard work and sacrifices were all worth it once more as the curtain closed on another Storming campaign.

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