Hemel Storm held on to second place in the National League and took a step closer to having home advantage in the end-of-season play-offs with two hard fought wins.
The side saw off Birmingham Mets 94-83, before beating London United 93-83 the next day.
First up, in front of a capacity crowd at Sportspace, Hemel’s intense defensive effort held the visitors to 16 points in each of the first two quarters and they took a 49-38 lead into half-time.
Storm’s starting five of Bode Adeluola, Drew Spinks, Tom Frederick, Simon Kearney and Rich Wellings created excellent scoring opportunities with slick passing and good movement, and the well-drilled team didn’t falter when substitutes Rodney Bryn-Hussey, Joe Perera and James Dawe were used.
Wellings found his three-point shooting touch and drilled four from long range, while the Mets found Storm’s lightning quick guard Adeluola hard to contain.
Mets were kept guessing by Hemel’s tactic of changing defences but a late rally in the fourth quarter got them to within six points at 87-81.
Not to be denied the win, though, Storm held their nerve to close out the game from the free-throw line.
“This was an important win for us,” said a delighted Storm coach Dave Titmuss.
“We just don’t match up man-to-man very well with them so had to use a series of different defences to disrupt their play – and it worked.
“We also moved the ball well and shot better than we have been doing lately which was the key.”
After the exertions of the night before, Storm travelled into the capital to play a revitalised and strengthened London United team who had recently shown what they are capable of by beating third-placed Glamorgan Gladiators.
A sluggish start by Storm saw the home team take a 24-21 first quarter lead, although it was clear that London were having trouble containing the inside play of Hemel’s eventual top scorer Frederick.
By half-time, accurate shooting – especially from Frederick and team captain Kearney – edged Hemel ahead 41-39 and the lead was consolidated after the break as Storm increased their defensive intensity.
Only outstanding offensive play by London’s leading scorer, Polish forward Daniel Szatkowski, kept the scores close. He eventually finished with 35 points.
The closing three minutes were decisive as Storm held London scoreless and stretched the lead to ten points with well-executed offence and accurate shooting.
Next up for Hemel is a clash with Mansfield Giants tomorrow, before the side travel to Wales on Sunday to meet third-place Glamorgan Gladiators.