After falling 18 points behind early in the second quarter, Hemel Storm delighted a packed Sportspace on Sunday with a stunning surge from behind to pip visitors Bristol Flyers 69-66 in the National Trophy game that marked the start of the season.
Under new head coach Steve Darlow, Storm shocked last season’s National League Division One runners-up with the intensity and commitment of their defence as they fought back after Bristol’s early barrage of three-point shots gave them a commanding lead.
Storm’s recovery was orchestrated by Bode Adeluola, Hemel’s backcourt dynamo, who has returned for his third season with the club.
His secure ball-handling allowed Hemel to control the offence and with back-up from teammates Wallid Mumuni, Williamz Omope, Simon Kearney, and Mike Darlow (15 rebounds), he pestered the Bristol guards, forcing a string of turnovers that were converted into easy break-away lay-ups.
Bristol finished with 25 turnovers to Storm’s 10.
By half-time Hemel had cut the lead back to 32-40 and came out after the interval determined to get on level terms, holding the visitors to just 13 third-quarter points and taking the lead with a Simon Kearney three-pointer.
The fourth quarter was a defensive battle with neither team gaining control but two decisive drives by Adeluola resulted in fouls, and when he hit all four free-throws the crowd was on its feet.
With 14 seconds left Hemel were in front 68-66 but Bristol had possession. Flyers coach Andreas Kapoulas called a time-out to set up a play he hoped would win the game.
But Storm’s defence once again held firm and when new signing Mumuni recovered the ball he was fouled and went on to seal a memorable victory from the free-throw line.
“We didn’t want to fall behind early like that but in the end it was a great way to start the new season,” said Darlow.
“Considering that we were missing four key players I thought we showed a lot of character.”
Storm’s next home game is against Westminster Warriors on Saturday October 12, tip-off at 7pm. For details and tickets see www.stormbasketball.net