Team Northumbria 81 Hemel Storm 63
HEMEL Storm’s superb run of eleven wins came to an end in Newcastle as their injury-hit team lost out to league champions Team Northumbria.
The result confirmed Hemel as league runners-up, with the side having already secured automatic promotion to England Basketball’s National League Division One for next season.
Storm will now meet seventh-placed London Eastside in the quarter-finals of the post-season play-offs which start on Saturday at Sportspace, tip-off 7pm.
Hemel were missing captain Simon Kearney and recent signing Rodney Bryn-Hussey through injury on Saturday and trailed Northumbria 40-37 at half-time.
Throughout the first half, the home team was able to disrupt Storm’s usually free-flowing offence with aggressive man-to-man marking.
Hemel stuck to their task, though, and stand-in captain and eventual top-scorer Tom Frederick kept them in touch with deft moves close to basket, while Rich Wellings hit four three-pointers.
Frederick ended with 18 points, having only missed one of his ten shots.
Northumbria’s main threats were import players, American Kevin Wollbrink and Frenchman Ivan Emanuely, and in the third quarter they took full advantage to push their team’s lead out to 12 points.
Hemel tried to chip away at the deficit and got it down to eight points with five minutes left, but some crucial shots went astray and Northumbria were able to increase the final margin as the visitors were forced to extend their defence all over the court.
“We’ve had a fantastic regular season,” said Storm chairman Neil McElduff, who acknowledged that injuries to players throughout the year had hampered Hemel.
“In my 25 years in the game I have never known a situation quite like we’ve had to contend with this year.
“It’s a huge credit to head coach Dave Titmuss and our squad that we’ve won promotion and retained the Patrons National Cup.”
Titmuss, too, was upbeat: “We’ll not let this one loss take anything away from the success we’ve had this season. The guys have been terrific and we’re going into the play-offs with a lot of confidence,” he said.
“On Saturday I thought we were sluggish and out of sync for most of the game – I think our efforts over the past three weekends and the injuries really caught up with us.
“I was disappointed that we didn’t handle Northumbria’s import players very well – between them they had more than half of their team’s points and were also their leading rebounders.”
On Sunday, Storm’s U18 youth team capped an impressive debut season by beating Bucks Hornets 73-57 to win the National Junior League’s East Conference.
The U16’s finished runners-up in their section after winning 87 – 73 against Nottingham.