Hemel Storm ended the season with one of their best performances of the year as they beat Kent Crusaders 86-70 in front of a packed and noisy crowd at Sportspace on Saturday evening.
The Crusaders had beaten Trilogy-It sponsored Hemel in the reverse fixture by 35 points and were joint-second in the Division One table before Saturday’s game tipped-off.
But in an amazing turnaround, Hemel – who were missing Aussie forward Darren Best through illness – controlled every quarter to secure a well-deserved victory.
The young and quick Kent side entered the game with a chance to finish as the league’s runner-up so it was no surprise that they started the brighter of the two teams and had an 8-3 lead a couple of minutes into the game.
Hemel’s Bode Adeluola grabbed a rebound under the Storm basket and dribbled the length of the court for a lay-up a minute or so later to cut the Kent advantage back to 12-9, before the home side grabbed their first lead of the game with three minutes left in the period at 15-14.
Walid Mumuni hit a three-pointer soon afterwards, and some excellent play at both ends of the court meant Storm ended the quarter in front at 24-16.
Crusaders scored the first seven points of the second period to reduce the lead to just a single point, but two superb jump shots by centre Tom Adorian opened it back out to five at 28-23.
It was the turn of the three-point shooters to take over Storm’s scoring and, following a pair of triples by Adeluola, another one by youngster Jack Burnell swished through the net to open up a 12-point lead with just a minute to play in the half.
Kent hit back but yet another mid-range jump shot by Adorian right on the buzzer enabled Hemel to go into the dressing room at half-time with a 10-point lead at 43-33.
A Crusaders three-point shot early in the third period was nullified by one from Storm skipper Simon Kearney and another from Carl Josey which extended the home side’s lead to 49-36.
A massive slam dunk by Adorian halfway through the quarter kept the lead at 13 points, and a steal and lay-up by Kearney a minute later ensured his side were well in control.
A monster triple from way beyond the arc by Josey with 30 seconds left ended the quarter in Storm’s favour at 66-53.
Both sides started the fourth with some excellent defence before the away team notched six straight points from the free-throw line to reduce the lead to just five points after three minutes.
However, two more Mumuni triples and a Adeluola lay-up gave Storm a nine-point lead at 76-67 with just a couple of minutes to play, and it was Adeluola that saw his side home from the free-throw line to a tremendous 16-point win.
Adeluola top-scored with 26 points, ably backed up by Adorian with 20 and Mumuni with 13. Josey chipped in with 11, Burnell and Kearney notched 5 each, Damian Edwards hit 4 and youngster Nick Allin added 2 to round off Storm’s scorers.
Following the game, an elated Hemel head coach Steve Darlow paid tribute to his players, especially the defence of Josey and Mumuni who he said were ‘magnificent.’ He added that it was his side’s ‘refuse to lose’ attitude in the final quarter that got them over the line after Kent had threatened to get back into the contest.
Storm will be back at Sportspace in September for another thrilling season of National League Division One basketball – details can be found at www.stormbasketball.net