The perfect Storm as unbeaten run is ended

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Hemel Storm 82 Team Northumbria 79

In a titanic and thrilling battle at Sportspace on Saturday, Hemel Storm handed the unbeaten league leaders Team Northumbria their first defeat of the campaign as the home team’s Drew Spinks sank two free-throws in overtime with just 0.9 seconds left on the clock.

In front of a packed crowd that gave Storm a standing ovation at the final buzzer, Hemel looked to have won the game in regulation time when a Northumbria shot missed with a few seconds to go.

But the visitors’ leading scorer Emanuely grabbed the rebound and scored from close range to tie the scores at 73 and send the game into overtime.

In a nail-biting extra period Northumbria opened the scoring with two free-throws before Storm’s Rich Wellings replied with a long-range three-pointer followed by a Tolu Abebekun lay-up from a slick James Dawe bounce pass to give Hemel a three point lead that they never surrendered.

A delighted Dave Titmuss, Storm’s head coach, said: “Northumbria has a big, talented and deep roster so it’s a huge win for us, no question.

“And considering how banged-up our squad is and the bizarre ending to overtime, we’re delighted to get this win and start 2012 with renewed hope of bringing a national title to the town.”

Storm were ahead 80-79 and had two free-throws with 0.9 seconds left so, tactically, they wanted to deliberately miss the second attempt.

That would mean the clock would start ticking again as soon as a Northumbrian player got the rebound under their own basket and they’d have virtually no time to hurl it the full length of the court.

Titmuss said: “When the free-throw bounced in the basket I knew Northumbria would still have an outside chance of sending the game into another period of overtime – and we were spent physically.

“The scored free-throw put us three points up but gave them the chance to get a timeout and set-up a play from half-court – the rules allow the team that takes the timeout to inbound the ball from the halfway line.

“As it happens we did a terrific job of defending their play.”

Storm missed the leadership and scoring of their star guard Bode Adueluola at crucial stages in the game and Titmuss is hoping he will return to action within two weeks after recovering from seriously damaged ankle ligaments sustained last November.

Hemel’s key players are gradually returning from injury but they are not fully match fit yet and this was a factor in the third quarter, which Hemel lost by eight points to give Northumbria a one-point lead going into the final session.

And when their outstanding centre Tom Frederick left the game with five minutes to go under the five fouls rule, things looked bleak for the home team.

The impressive Rich Wellings (18 points) and Spinks (28 points) took over in the fourth quarter, scoring all of Storm’s points in the period, and Hemel’s tactic of changing their defences constantly kept their opponents off balance.

“We thought we’d done enough to win it in regulation time,” said Titmuss. “But we had to dig deep and fight for the victory in overtime. I’m very proud of the team and grateful for the tremendous support we had.”

Storm’s leading scorers: Spinks 28, Wellings 18, Simon Kearney 14, and Frederick 14.