Hemel Storm enjoy a winning start to the season
Storm got their NBL Division One campaign under way at Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre last weekend
Last season’s third and second-placed teams faced off as Hemel Storm grabbed a well deserved 91-85 win over Thames Valley Cavaliers in the opening home match of the new NBL Division One season at Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre.
The teams had met previously in the L Lynch Trophy, which saw Cavaliers claim a narrow win.
Vanarama-sponsored Storm entered the game shorthanded as star American Greg Poleon sat out his third straight game with a knee injury, and guard Bode Adeluola was also out injured.
Storm broke out to a fast start, hitting a 9-2 lead with fluent offence and aggressive defence, Tayo Oyefusi finding his range from distance.
Thames Valley were very active around the basket and kept the scoreboard moving but a three-point play by Taylor Johnson gave Storm a 25-18 lead before a last-second drive from Cavaliers left the score at 27-24 at the end of the first quarter.
The second period was a much more attritional affair as the offences dried up and fouls started to dominate.
Two threes from Jack Burnell and Johnson pushed the score on as Hemel continued to deny the Cavaliers shots from range, before a crazy last 15 seconds saw the visitors score five quick points to leave Storm in front 49-45 at the half.
Thames Valley’s aggressive defence put them in the penalty with six minutes left of the third quarter but somehow they didn’t foul again and Hemel didn’t get the bonus.
And Cavaliers battled back as the third quarter ended with the teams level at 66-66.
Thames Valley took an early lead in the final quarter and Storm looked under pressure but three great plays from Johnson turned defence into offence and took Storm to an eight-point lead with seven minutes remaining.
Both teams turned the ball over as nerves set in but two big scores for Storm from Johnathan Lashley kept the lead at six.
An offensive foul on Lashley gave possession to Cavaliers as they made it as they made it a two-point game.
With everything on the line, Storm fought for every ball and challenged every possession.
Johnson drew a foul with 34 seconds left and made both shots to regain a six-point lead and, when Levi Noel went to the line and made both shots, the 91-85 win was secured.
Johnson led the Storm scoring with 28 points while Lashley (25), Tayo Oyefusi (14) and Shaquille Lewis (13) were the other main contributors.
Storm’s next game is on Saturday (October 16) when they host Team Newcastle University at Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre (7pm tip off).
Tickets are available online at www.stormbasketball.net or can be purchased at the door on the night.
Storm, meanwhile, have announced that Hemel Storm II, positioned in Division Three, will be renamed the University of Hertfordshire Storm in the upcoming 2021-22 season.
The relationship with the university has developed over the last three years and grew even stronger through the pandemic last season, utilising the excellent facilities at the Hertfordshire Sports Village (HSV) to play home fixtures - support that was vital to the team’s success.
The next strategic phase of the partnership includes further support for the development of the University Men’s Performance Basketball programme.
A new initiative will recruit and support talented student athletes, who will represent Hemel Storm and the University Basketball programmes through their Herts journey.
UH Storm will be coached by Storm’s assistant head coach Michael Darlow and all Division Three games will now be played at the Storm Dome at the Hemel Leisure Centre.
These will be double-header games for a Saturday basketball feast for fans, with tip-off at 4pm before the usual 7pm tip-off for the Hemel Storm Division One fixtures.
Storm fans with season tickets will also be able to gain free entry to these additional Division Three games.
Bryn Clark, Deputy Director of Sport at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “The University of Hertfordshire have been quietly developing a performance-focused University Basketball Programme, playing in the British University Colleges Sport (BUCS).
“We are delighted to form this wider alliance with Hemel Storm Basketball Club who are one of the biggest and most progressive NBL Basketball Clubs in the country.
“We have been nothing but impressed with the club, the coaching team, the volunteer staff and importantly the chairman Tony Humphrey, who has welcomed the university discussions and shared the exciting vision for Hemel Storm going forward, which we are delighted and privileged to be a part of.”
After what is a significant development of Storm’s basketball strategy, the club’s director of basketball Jon Burnell added: “To build a basketball relationship with the university is a really important step for us, aligning our programme to that of our peer group competitors and allowing us to work together to strengthen basketball within Hertfordshire.
“We have a fantastic relationship with Bryn that is built on honesty and transparency.
“We have worked hard together this summer to shape what is to come and everyone at Storm is really excited by this partnership which I know will be beneficial to both programmes.”