Hemel Storm’s valiant comeback ultimately fell short against Derby Trailblazers in an entertaining first game of the season in front of a near capacity Sportspace crowd.
The visitors came out of the blocks the strongest of the two teams and a pair of early three-pointers by the away side gave them an early lead.
Storm answered with threes of their own from new signings Adam Rickwood and Carl Josey, but Derby stoically held on to their lead.
Bode Adeluola grabbed a three pointer himself with a couple of minutes left.
A score under the basket by another new Storm player, centre Papa Demba Kasse, got the deficit back to a single point but the visitors went in leading by four at 22-26 after one period.
A slow start to the second quarter by both teams left Derby six points up, before some excellent link ups between Walid Mumuni and Kasse got the lead back to just a single point once more at 34-35 with just over three minutes remaining in the half.
Another three pointer by Adeluola following a time-out tied the scores soon afterwards, before a long three by skipper Simon Kearney gave Hemel their first lead of the night with a minute left.
The home side just couldn’t hold on, though, and it was Derby that went into the changing rooms at half-time with a slender lead at 40-42.
The Trailblazers opened the third quarter with a three and the lead kept stretching away from Storm who found themselves 66-52 down with just 10 minutes to play.
A series of disasters for the home side early in the final quarter all but sealed the win for Derby as a technical foul went against Mumuni, then both Adeluola and Mumuni both controversially fouled out of the game with over half the quarter to play.
Hemel got the score back to just a four point deficit with Kearney, Rickwood and Josey all converting difficult chances, but Derby kept their heads and ran the clock out for a deserved win at 78-69.
After the game a sombre Storm head coach Steve Darlow lamented that his side had turned the ball over far too many times to beat an excellent side like Derby.
The Coach’s mood improved on Sunday afternoon, however, after Storm blew away fourth division Cambridge Cats in the first round of the National Cup.
Hemel led 56-28 at half-time in the University City before going on to win 98-57.