Birmingham Mets 81 Hemel Storm 70
AN injury-decimated Hemel Storm lost their first National League game this season as they were edged out by Birmingham Mets.
Despite a spirited performance, Hemel lost their way in the second period as Birmingham forced their guards into ball-handling errors before capitalising on their extra possession.
Hemel Head Coach Dave Titmuss said: “Right now we’re obviously not the same team that started the season but I thought we played with a lot of heart against Mets.
“We made too many handling mistakes and gave up 18 points in lay-ups which made it tough to get into a position to win.
“But half-court for half-court I thought we did a pretty good job and we can build on that.
“We strapped-up Tom Frederick and Rich Wellings who played but were obviously hampered. If we can get all of our key guys back healthy after the Christmas break, I’m confident that we’re still capable of having a strong second half to the season.”
From the tip-off, Storm started strongly and their pressure defence disrupted Birmingham, while accurate shooting – including two three-pointers from Wellings – gave them a 16-13 first quarter edge.
Hemel’s captain Simon Kearney led by example as he out-rebounded the bigger and more athletic Birmingham players, as well as throwing four assists in as many minutes.
He went on to produce his best individual performance of the season.
But in the second period, the absence of lightening-quick guard Bode Adeluola and the experienced Drew Spinks began to show.
Without the duo there to protect possession, Hemel were forced into turning the ball over to the extent that Mets took control and led 36-26 at half-time.
Storm began to claw back the deficit in the opening minutes of the third period but, once again, the inexperience of their back-up guards James Dawes and Fred Stephens was exposed by Birmingham.
With Wellings and Frederick unable to play extended minutes, Mets were 20 points ahead going into the final quarter.
“We really rallied in the last period and were fighting possession-by-possession to get ourselves back into the game,” said Titmuss.
“Our match-up defence was causing them problems and we executed better offensively, but it was just too big a deficit to make-up.”
Storm play their last game before Christmas on Saturday when they are home to Glamorgan Gladiators at Sportspace, tip-off 7pm.