Hemel Storm lost in overtime for the second successive week after a pulsating game at a packed Sportspace against the Derby Trailblazers on Saturday evening.
There was no sign of the points explosion to come when, halfway through the first quarter, the visitors held a slim 8-7 lead.
Carl Josey’s second three-pointer of the game kept Hemel within a point with four minutes to play, and a steal and lay-up by Nik Rhodes followed by a triple from the corner right on the buzzer by Michael Darlow meant that Derby led at the end of the first quarter by just one point at 23-22.
An early second quarter three by Bode Adeluola gave Storm the lead for the first time, which had stretched to six after five minutes following nice buckets by Josey and Adeluola.
Two threes in quick succession by Rhodes kept the lead at six after a fightback by Derby with just two minutes left in the half, and the lead stayed the same at the break with Hemel in front at 51-45.
The third period did not start well for the home side as not only did Derby tie the scores, but influential guard Rhodes was called for his fourth foul of the game, sending him to the bench for a while.
Curiously though, Hemel then went on to have their best spell of the game and Adeluola, thanks to a wonderful assist by Kenroy Wood, had built the six-point lead back up by the five-minute mark
Still Storm kept pouring forward and had eked the lead out to double figures at
64-53 with just two minutes left in the quarter.
Despite another Derby comeback, a triple by Simon Kearney inside the final minute sent the home side in leading 75-68 with 10 minutes to go in the match.
Both sides took to the skies in the final period as Derby hit four triples to Storm’s two in the first four minutes, all of which left Hemel up by four at 88-84.
Back came the away side once again and, when Rhodes fouled out with two and a half minutes to go, Derby took the lead for the first time since the early stages at 94-92. Two more Adeluola threes kept Storm in the game, and a third long-shot inside the last minute gave Storm a two point-lead at 100-98 - but they couldn’t quite hold on and Derby once again tied it up with almost no time left on the clock.
The sides were heading to overtime, and - just like the week before - that was where it all went wrong for the home team.
With the referees calling foul after foul for even minimum contact, it was Hemel that suffered the most. Although Josey hit his side’s 15th triple, it was the Traiblazers that edged back in front.
With Storm missing several crucial jump shots as the clock ran down it was the away side that ran out winners with yet another three-pointer and several free-throws as Hemel tried in vain to stay in the contest.
Storm’s head coach Dave Titmuss said: “We’re really struggling to close games out. Derby are a talented team, but we had several opportunities to win in regulation time and made same costly decisions at both ends of the court.
“But the good news is there’s nothing technically happening that we can’t put right in training. We’re playing with a lot of heart and commitment which will help us turn things around as the season progresses.”
In Loughborough on Sunday, Storm exited the National Cup with a 73-71 loss against Loughborough University Riders when, again, the game was snatched from them following mistakes in the final minutes.
Hemel Storm’s next home game is at Sportspace on Saturday, November 7 at 7pm against Leicester Warriors in a National League Division One game.
Tickets and more information can be found at www.stormbasketball.net