Storm lose to old foes Thunder in a thrillingly close encounter
The last time Hemel Storm and Worthing Thunder met was in the final of last season's national playoff final with the Sussex side winning out.
The two teams met again on Saturday, this time in a regular season National League Division One game at Hemel Leisure Centre with Storm just coming up short in an exciting end-to-end shoot-out 102-105.
Hemel had a chance to send the game to overtime when Jack Burnell launched a deep three-point shot with a second left but the effort hit the rim and bounced out.
It was another offensive showcase for Hemel – still without the injured Tom Adorian and Mike Darlow – shooting at an impressive success rate of 52 percent and the visitors at 48 percent. But Worthing’s accuracy from the free-throw line, where they scored 14 points to Storm’s six, gave them an edge.
Worthing won last season’s playoff final by ten points and Saturday’s match-up saw Storm claw back from deficits throughout the game including a late run from 76-90 down to get within four points at 97-101 on a Bode Adeluola lay-up.
A high-tempo start to the game saw the lead see-saw before Worthing edged in front 28-31 at the end of the first quarter.
The visitors’ former BBL MVP Zaire Taylor controlled his team’s offence.
But as the sides swapped baskets in the second period, Hemel’s Will Ashby gave Storm a spark off the bench to help his team complete their come-back.
A Burnell three-pointer swished through the basket to give Hemel a 55-54 half-time lead.
The visitors came out of the dressing room with a renewed focus on the defensive end and limited Storm to just 14 points in the third quarter, grabbing a double digit lead at 80-69 heading into the final ten minutes.
But Hemel refused to let the game get away from them and in a thrilling climax fought back to win the final stanza 34-25 but just falling short on the last possession.
The offensive display from both sides kept the scorer’s table busy all evening.
For the second game in a row Blayne Freckleton was Storm’s leading scorer, knocking down three triples on his way to 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
Both Leome Francis and Levi Noel flirted with double-double statistics, with Francis contributing 19 points and seven rebounds, while Noel had 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Adeluola was another who kept the scoreboard ticking over, adding 18 points, three assists and two steals.
Storm’s head coach Robert Youngblood said: “We’re continuing to shoot extremely well and I was pleased with our bench scoring, but we can’t give up 100-plus points each game, especially against the better teams in the league.”
Storm’s team and scorers: Freckleton 20, Francis 19, Adeluola 18, Noel 17, Burnell 9, Ashby 9, Henry 5, Hayes 3, Berry 2, Martin, Dunscombe, Ladlow.
Storm are at home again this Sunday when they host Ipswich in the third round of the National Cup (tip-off 5pm).
The previous night they are away at Thames Valley Cavaliers in a Division One league match-up.
For tickets and more details, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.