Hemel Storm shocked rivals Essex Leopards in Brentwood on Sunday with a rampant 34-12 third quarter that led to a 96-84 win to avenge their two-point loss to the same side at home two weeks ago.
It was a good weekend for Storm in National League Division One as Sunday’s win followed a dominant 105-83 triumph against Barking Abbey Crusaders at Hemel Leisure Centre on Saturday.
Storm controlled the game against Barking from the tip-off and an eye-catching six triples in the first quarter by Blayne Freckleton triggered a 31-16 Hemel lead that ballooned to 57-31 by half-time.
A spirited second-half fightback saw Barking take the third period 25-21 and the teams tied the fourth, 27-27, but the damage by Storm was already done.
The winning weekend moved Storm up to 10th in the table and keeps them in the hunt for the post-season playoffs featuring the division’s top-eight clubs.
Hemel’s recent signing, 6ft 7ins forward TrayVonn Wright, won the Basketball England NBL player of the week award for the second week running after a sensational combined 51 points, 23 rebounds and five blocks across the two games.
Since Wright joined Storm from BBL side Leicester Riders just days before the signing deadline, Hemel have won five of eight games with the American in the line-up.
Hemel’s head coach Robert Youngblood said: “TrayVonn was fantastic in both games and at both ends of the floor.”
Before Sunday’s derby clash with Essex, their boss Tom Baker said the game had “bragging rights attached to it” but he was gracious in defeat, saying: “We knew Hemel had the quality to hurt us and credit coach Youngblood and his team, they executed extremely well in the second-half.”
Storm trailed Leopards 46-38 with less than 20 seconds of the first-half remaining when Freckleton nailed a trademark three-pointer to keep Hemel in touch at 46-41.
After a tense and even first period, 23-23, Storm fell behind by ten points, 43-33, as the hosts went on a 14-4 run before Hemel recovered on the back of three-pointers from Levi Noel and Freckleton, assisted by Bode Adeluola, who also added four points off his own with two unstoppable drives to basket.
During the interval Youngblood demanded a better rebounding and defensive effort. “I went a little crazy about the rebounding and our defence,” said Youngblood, “and I reminded the guys that winning both games over the weekend meant we could start to look up the table.”
Storm responded by shutting down the hosts’ key players, controlling the boards and pushing the score to 75-58 through well-executed attacks and sharp shooting.
During the third period Freckleton and Will Ashby sank a brace of three-pointers each and Adeluola, who had 10 assists, nailed another.
Noel was assigned to negate Essex talisman Sam Newman and his performance drew praise from Youngblood, who said: “Levi’s lock-down defence in the first eight minutes of the second-half was key to our run and then Will [Ashby] took over for the rest of the game and made a big contribution at both ends.
“Everyone was great this weekend, we showed a terrific team effort in both games.
“We shot the ball much better than in recent games, we kept our turnovers down and rebounded really well on Saturday and in the second-half on Sunday”.
Youngblood also praised captain Tom Adorian (10 points, 12 rebounds), who held Essex’s 7ft centre Lee Hodges to 16 points, as well as Jamie Hayes, who covered for the injured Leome Francis.
Storm are away at ninth-placed Nottingham Hoods this Saturday in another key clash in the playoff race.
Storm team and scorers v Barking: TrayVonn Wright 31, Blayne Freckleton 25, Bode Adeluola 21,Jack Burnell 11, Will Ashby 7, Levi Noel 6, Tom Adorian 4, Jamie Hayes, Shaquille Lewis.
Against Essex: Bode Adeluola 27, TrayVonn Wright 20, Blayne Freckleton 20, Will Ashby 14, Tom Adorian 10, Levi Noel 3, Jack Burnell 2, Jamie Hayes, Shaquille Lewis.