Hemel Storm lost a tight and physical game 98-94 after overtime to the Westminster Warriors in a National Trophy group match played at JFK School, writes Paul Davidson.
With the prospect of a home quarter-final the prize for the winners, both teams started the game in top gear and stayed there for the entire 45 minutes duration.
Carl Josey got Storm on the board with a three-pointer, but it was their opponents who hit the front initially to lead 14-9 after five minutes of the first quarter.
With two minutes to go it was still the Warriors in front at 19-15, and they went on to lead at the first interval by just two points at 23-21.
Storm co-captain Simon Kearney got things going in the second period with a three from the corner, following a lovely assist by Bode Adeluola.
Another triple – this time by Adeluola – gave Hemel their first lead of the game, but two three-pointers by Westminster wrestled the lead back.
It was turning into a shooting gallery now as Adeluola hit another triple, interspersed by three more from the Warriors.
Yet another three, this time by Carl Josey, brought Hemel close but it seemed that the away side would go in at half-time at least level before a last second steal and lay-up by Nik Rhodes sent Storm into the dressing room in front by two points at 46-44.
Storm scored the first seven points of quarter three to pad their lead, and another flurry of three-pointers, one from Kenroy Wood and two more by Kearney, left them 10 points ahead halfway through.
Westminster were not going to go away, though, and fought their way back to trail by just three points at the end of the quarter with the score 69-66 in Hemel’s favour.
Three pointers continued to rain down for both teams, with the home side still in front at 81-75 after five minutes of the fourth. A lovely steal and lay-up by big Tom Adorian for Storm kept his side five up with less than three minutes to go.
But Westminster hit their 16th triple to tie the game up inside the last minute and, when Storm came up empty on their next possession, Warriors had the ball with 27 seconds left with a chance to win the game in regulation time.
Hemel head coach Dave Titmuss called a timeout and set his team’s defence which successfully stopped the visitors – meaning the game headed into five minutes of overtime.
And that was where it went wrong for the home side. Although Adorian nailed a couple of jump shots, a pair of missed free throws and two poorly judged attempts by Storm allowed their visitors to win the game from the free-throw line.
Titmuss said: “We allowed them to hit 16 threes because our perimeter defenders were too often caught out of position.”
He continued: “Warriors are playing very well right now and, because we started our preparations late this year, we’re still learning our system. But giving up 98 points was disappointing.”
Hemel are guaranteed a quarter-final place and will advance to play either the top or second placed team in the northern pool depending on results from the last few games.
Storm’s next home game is at Sportspace this Saturday at 7pm against Derby Trailblazers in their first National League Division One game of the season.
Tickets and more information at www.stormbasketball.net