After a nail-biting one point win in Reading at the weekend, Hemel Storm will be fighting for home advantage in the National Championship playoffs when they take on Bradford Dragons at Sportspace on Saturday in the last regular game of the season.
A top-four finish will mean that Hemel will get a home draw in the quarter-finals on April 2, although their opponent and final league position will not be known until all Division One fixtures are completed next Sunday.
On Saturday Storm took on a Reading team that had won nine of their last 10 games.
After clawing back from four points down with under five minutes to play Hemel’s eventual top scorer Nik Rhodes sank a free-throw with 25 seconds left to put Storm up by a point.
Although Reading had possession and a chance to win the game, a determined defensive stance by the visitors forced a hurried shot with two seconds left and Hemel’s Walid Mumuni grabbed the last of his nine rebounds to secure victory as the buzzer sounded to the delight of Hemel’s travelling fans .
Storm held a 16-14 lead after the first period when their changing defences seemed to disrupt the home team.
But after a possession by possession battle all the way to half-time, Reading’s American guard Antonio Robinson hit two free-throws to bring his team within one at 32-33 before Storm’s centre Tom Adorian grabbed an offensive rebound on the last possession of the half and scored from close range to put his side 35-32 ahead.
A carbon copy third quarter ended with Reading in front at 58-57 on a Jordan Nicholls three-pointer, and they extended the lead to 67-63 with five minutes to play with another three by Robinson.
However, a Hemel time-out steadied the ship, with a Mumuni triple and driving lay-up by Rhodes putting the visitors back in front before the dramatic finale.
“We just have so much resilience as a team,” said a delighted Hemel co-coach Dave Titmuss. “It shows in how we pull together when the chips are down.
“We made some good decisions in the closing minutes against Reading and that’s an indication of the progress we’ve made.
“We got good shots throughout the game and hit 52 per cent to their 39 per cent and also out-rebounded them 41 to 36 which is a special effort.”
Hemel’s win completes three victories over the Berkshire team, having beaten them in the Trophy and home and away in the National League.
Storm team and scorers: Rhodes 17, Kearney 13, Adorian 12, Adeluola 11(and seven assists), Mumuni 8 (and nine rebounds), Edwards 8, Wood 3, Darlow 2, Allin 2, Rodwell.
Storm’s next home game is against Bradford Dragons on Saturday at Sportspace, tip-off 7pm. Tickets and information at www.stormbasketball.net