Hemel Storm Academy make their mark on the national stage

Jack Burnell is one of the stars of the Storm Academy
Jack Burnell is one of the stars of the Storm Academy

The Hemel Storm Academy showed their class to make it through to the U19 National Championship final before eventually falling 92-76 Greig City Academy from Haringey.

Playing at the University of East London, the Storm youngsters saw off Worthing College 70-59 in the semi-finals before Greig City took the honours in the final of the competition.

In only its second year, the Storm Academy – based at St Mary’s High School in Cheshunt – beat a number of schools and colleges with established basketball programmes to reach the final.

In the semi-final, the Academy – nicknamed Thunder – had to overcome a tenacious and spirited Worthing College squad and were made to fight all the way.

Top-scorer Zhenia Antimonov poured in the points, while guards Paida Mapfekap, Jelani Phillips and Jack Burnell kept cool and handled the ball well as Storm earned a deserved win.

The final tipped-off just a couple of hours later and fatigue quickly became a factor.

After a bright start, Storm fell behind to Greig City’s driving attacks and accurate outside shooting to trail 51-30 at the half-time break.

A much better second half performance wasn’t enough to get back on even terms but Storm fought hard all the way to the buzzer.

Academy head coach Dave Titmuss, who is also chairman and director of coaching at Storm, was delighted with the commitment and character shown by his side.

“This season has been a remarkable journey for us all and to reach a national final in only our second season is a terrific achievement and shows how much the students have improved since last year,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.

“The experience was extremely valuable and we’ll build on this for next year.”