British champs ride in to the eye of the Storm

Storm's Lee Greenan in action against the Leicester Riders. (Picture by Lin Titmuss).
Storm's Lee Greenan in action against the Leicester Riders. (Picture by Lin Titmuss).

Basketball fans were treated to a thrilling long-range shoot-out in Hemel Hempstead on Saturday when the British champions rode into town.

An exhibition of high-speed basketball and accurate long-range shooting thrilled a packed Sportspace as Hemel Storm took on reigning British Basketball League champions Leicester Riders in a challenge match that the visitors won 114-100.

Storms captain Bode Adeluola drives for two points against reining BBL champions Leicester Riders at Sportspace on Saturday. (Picture by Lin Titmuss)

Storms captain Bode Adeluola drives for two points against reining BBL champions Leicester Riders at Sportspace on Saturday. (Picture by Lin Titmuss)

Storm matched the Riders for three of the quarters and only a dominant second period (31-19) broke the game open.

Hemel were without leading scorer David Ajumobi through sickness but they upset the form book to win the first period 25-22 as starters Bode Adeluola, Jack Burnell, Lee Greenan, Wayne Yeboah and Mike Darlow absorbed Leicester’s pressure, shared the ball well on offence and rebounded hard at both ends to secure extra possessions.

But indifferent defence allowed the Riders to show their class in the second stanza, led by 6ft 10ins forward Harrison Gamble (30 points) and American guard Eric Robertson (25 points).

After their bright start, Storm trailed 55-44 at half-time having allowed four late unchallenged three-pointers that pushed the score difference from a manageable three points out to 11.

Both sides used the arc effectively throughout, with Riders sinking 15 long bombs and Storm connecting on 12.

At the half-time break Storm head coach Robert Youngblood let his players know that while he was satisfied enough with the team’s offence, their defensive performance wasn’t good enough.

“It’s difficult to win when you give up 55 points in a half,” said Youngblood.

Storm responded well after the break and their defence was more effective, matching the visitors 26-all in the third period and just being pipped 35-30 in the final frame.

In an all-round fighting team performance, Yeboah was outstanding for Hemel and ended as top-scorer on 22 points. His offensive rebounding was exceptional, allowing him to snag five missed shots to score from close range while skipper Bode Adeluola managed the ball-handling duties well and chipped in with 17 points of his own.

Youngblood said: “I think the players and coaches learnt a lot and it was excellent preparation for our first league game this Saturday away to Reading and our cup game the next day against Ipswich.”

Riders are steeped in history and are the oldest professional basketball club in Britain having been founded in 1967. They were founder members of the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1972 and British Basketball League (BBL) in 1987. Their team has always been competitive but it wasn’t until 2001 when they first lifted silverware, winning the BBL Play-Offs and National Cup. Since then Riders have won a further nine national titles.

Storm team and scorers: Wayne Yeboah 22, Bode Adeluola 17, Jack Burnell 16, Michael Darlow 15, Tom Adorian 9, Chuck Duru 7, Walid Mumuni 6, Lee Greenan 4, Nick Allin 2, Courtney Van-Beest 2, Rhyce Donegal.

Storm are at home this Sunday against Ipswich in the third-round of the National Cup (tip-off 5pm).

For tickets, see the website www.stormbasketball.net.