REIGNING Patrons Cup champions Hemel Storm have made a flying start to their defence of the title, seeing off both London Westside and Mansfield Giants in an action-packed weekend.
Storm swept to an 81-64 victory over London Westside on Saturday, before battling hard to beat Mansfield Giants 101-73 the following day.
In front of a loud Sportspace crowd, Storm made a slow start against a big and talented London outfiit.
Andy Harper ensured the sides went in level after the first quarter, though, as he netted a couple of timely jump shots to tie the scores at 16-16.
Storm – who are are still missing Drew Spinks and Richard Wellings through injury – were dwarfed by their London opponents, but gradually began to take control of the contest with some tenacious defence.
Hemel took a 41-33 advantage into half-time, courtesy of a 9-3 run which was sparked by steals from the irrepressible Bode Adeluola.
And the hosts added three points to their advantage in a physical and energy-sapping third quarter
With both sides beginning to tire, it was Storm’s strength of character which shone through in the fourth, as Lee McCarthy provided the champagne moment of the game with a breakaway dunk.
A three-pointer from 17-year-old Storm Academy Michael Darlow finished off a 10-2 run from Hemel, which all but ended the Westside challenge.
“Westside has a strong European-based roster and play a style that is prevalent there,” said Storm coach Dave Titmuss. “They will be a handful for anyone this season and I expect to see them figure in the National League’s top three.
“I thought we showed mental toughness throughout the game and made some big defensive plays.”
Following on from their London triumph, there was little rest for Storm as they took to the court for Sunday’s clash with Mansfield.
The Giants’ active zone defence and dribble-oriented attack posed early problems for Storm, but the scoreline was balanced narrowly in Hemel’s favour at 42-37 at half-time.
From then on there was only going to be one winner, and, after Titmuss adjusted his defence, Storm extended the advantage with a 27-19 third quarter.
The side then drew further clear in the last period of the game, eventually finishing with a 28-point triumph.
Next up for Storm is a home game with Birmingham Mets on October 9.