Hemel Storm bounced back from a one-point loss in Reading on Saturday to defeat Ipswich 83 - 76 at home on Sunday and progress to the fourth round of the National Cup.
After a gutsy fight back from a ten point deficit in the last two minutes of their National League Division One clash against Reading and with a couple of seconds left, Storm’s Michael Darlow stepped up to take two free-throws with his team trailing by two points, 95 – 93, and with a chance to take the game into overtime.
Darlow’s first shot swished through the net, his second missed and the rebound was grabbed by Hemel’s new American signing A J Roberts whose off-balance and heavily challenged attempt at a winning shot fell short.
AJ’s debut for Vanarama-sponsored Storm was impressive as the 6’ 5” Californian guard top-scored with 26 points and also grabbed 3 rebounds, threw four assists and stole the ball twice.
Although the effort of the previous day was evident in Hemel’s play on Sunday they used a dominant 33 – 17 third quarter to recover from a six point half time deficit (37 – 31) and open a ten point gap to secure a lead that they never surrendered.
During the half-time team talk Coach Robert Youngblood instructed his team to pressure the visitors all over the court. His players responded forcing Ipswich into passing mistakes which Hemel pounced on for easy scores much to the delight of their noisy fans.
Hemel’s 7’ 0” centre Lee Greenan faced his former Club for the first time following his move to Storm in the summer and top-scored with 18 points from some powerful and skilful play around the key and including three crowd-pleasing dunks. Wayne Yeboah and captain Bode Adeluola were a handful for the visitors also finishing with 12 and 11 points respectively.
Hemel will now face Division One outfit Crusaders away in the next round after the Kent side defeated Lewisham Thunder 83 – 41.
Storm’s first League game of the season saw them mount a spirited challenge to Reading after a poor start defensively that saw them trail 30 – 24 after the first quarter. But some changes in Hemel’s line-up produced a much improved second quarter as the Rockets were held to just 16 points and the teams were then locked at 46 going into the half-time break.
Reading restored their offensive advantage in the third quarter and going into the final stanza they led by five points through accurate shooting from American Jerrod Hendricks (22 points) and Australian Declan Soukup (18 points).
With two minutes remaining and Storm trailing 84 – 94 a great defensive effort would hold the home side to just one more point while Yeboah hit two jump shots, Walid Mumuni sank a three pointer and Adeluola scored from a driving lay-up. And the game’s dramatic climax was set up when Darlow was fouled by Reading’s American centre Tim Gill.
Storm Coach Robert Youngblood commenting on the weekend’s games said:
“We’re just not playing as hard or together defensively as I know we’re going to have to as the season goes on.
“I’m confident that we’re going to be able to score well, we have a nice balance in the team from that standpoint. But unless we commit more to defence both individually and as a team we’re going to end up hoping we can win with offence which is not the way to win consistently. We’re not hitting our defensive goals at the moment so that’s where our focus is right now.”
Team and scorers v Reading: AJ Roberts 26, Walid Mumuni 18, Bode Adeluola 16, Wayne Yeboah 11, Mike Darlow 11, David Ajumobi 6, Greenan 4, Adorian 2, Nick Allin, Jack Burnell, Chuck Duru, and Courtney Van-Beest.
Team and scorers v Ipswich: Lee Greenan 18, Wayne Yeboah 12, Bode Adeluola 11, A J Roberts 10, Mike Darlow 9, Jack Burnell 9, Tom Adorian 7, Courtney Van-Beest 4, Walid Mumuni 3, David Ajumobi, Nick Allin, Chuck Duru.
Storm are at home on Saturday in a National League Division One game against Team Newcastle University, tip-off 7pm. Tickets and information: www.stormbasketball.net
Photos: (1 & 2) A J Roberts made an impressive debut for Storm against Reading on Saturday.
(3) Lee Greenan top scored with 18 points against his former team on Sunday.
Photos – Lin Titmuss