Hemel Storm eased to a comfortable 90-80 win at Worthing Thunder on Sunday afternoon, despite a fourth quarter fightback by the home team with the help of some friendly officiating.
It was Worthing who started the game the brighter of the two sides, taking a 9-4 lead after three minutes.
A three-pointer by co-skipper Simon Kearney pulled Storm back into the game soon afterwards and, by halfway through the first period, Hemel who held a 12-11 advantage; a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.
Another Kearney triple with less than three minutes to go put his side up by seven and, when Bode Adeluola hit another three, Hemel led by 11 at 24-13 and didn’t look back.
Mike Darlow opened the Hemel scoring in the second quarter with a long three, and some wonderful defence by the Hertfordshire side kept their lead in double figures.
Hemel’s Walid Mumuni in particular was outstanding in his tireless one-on-one defending of Worthing’s high scoring star guard Tom Ward, holding him eventually to just 14 points for the game.
“Walid was sensational defensively,” said a delighted Storm co-coach Dave Titmuss. “His relentless pressure just wore Ward down.”
A second triple by Darlow pushed the lead over 20 points at 42-21 with three minutes left, and at half-time Storm still held a 20-point lead at.
Rhodes got in on the three-point act with a spectacular shot to keep Hemel’s lead over 20 points, and halfway through a slow scoring third period, they still led 55-38.
Storm picked up their second injury of the game when Rhodes hit the court hard, following Damian Edwards damaging his ankle in the first. It didn’t slow the team down, though, as they finished the third up by 22 at 66-44.
The final quarter was all Worthing, helped by the first seven fouls being called on the away side, although Hemel didn’t help their own cause with a series of turnovers.
“We got sloppy, no question,” said Hemel co-coach Dave Allin. “I don’t think the result was ever in doubt but we allowed Worthing to make a game of it.”
Slowly the Storm lead was reduced and was down to just 13 at 69-56 after four minutes.
To the relief of the travelling Storm fans, Tom Adorian who broke the Thunder run with a huge dunk, and Worthing’s comeback was further halted by two lay-ups by Rhodes to keep the lead over double figures.
Rhodes and Adeluola joint top-scored with 21 points apiece, with Darlow adding a further 12. Mumuni grabbed 8 points and the scoring was completed by Adorian (7), Kearney (6), Wood (3) and Edwards (2).
Nick Allin and Jamie Rodwell also put in some useful minutes for a Storm side that had just completed a clean sweep of three consecutive tough away games.
Hemel’s next home game is at Sportspace on Saturday at 7pm when they take on the league leading Manchester Magic in a National League Division One fixture.
Tickets and more information can be found at www.stormbasketball.net