Hemel Storm were edged 80-82 by Nottingham Hoods in a nail-biting National League Division One clash at Hemel Leisure Centre on Saturday in front of a packed house.
Storm were outlasted despite a spirited fightback in the last quarter when they opened a four-point lead with two minutes to go.
Storm produced a 15-6 burst in the last quarter on the back of some inspired defence to recover from a 62-67 third-period deficit to move into a 77-73 lead.
But uncharacteristic turnovers and missed shots in the final minutes undid all their good work and resulted in a 9-0 run by the visitors who were able to snatch a win.
It means the tough start to the league season continues for Storm as they fell to a 1-8 record, tied at the foot of the table and ruing a missed chance to put daylight between themselves and the other strugglers.
Storm’s head coach Robert Youngblood said: “The result was firmly in our own hands although you have to credit Nottingham for cashing-in on the mistakes we made when we were ahead. It was certainly a game that we expected to close-out and win.
“We had some fantastic contributions by guys coming off the bench [combined 36 points] and I thought our defensive intensity and execution was outstanding at times – especially in the last quarter – and this is something we can build on going forward.”
A cagey opening 15 minutes on Saturday saw the lead change hands often as neither team could get a footing in the game until Storm blew things open with a 16-2 run midway through the second quarter to lead 38-28.
But the visitors rallied in the last two minutes of the period to trail by just four, 43-39, at half-time.
Nottingham opened the second-half strongly, going on a 12-2 tear of their own and they held the lead for most of the third stanza.
Storm fought back as Leon Henry, Blayne Freckleton and Bode Adeluola all hit shots and Hemel’s pressure defence took its toll on the visitors.
But a combination of turnovers that were converted into scores and missed shots by Hemel allowed Nottingham to get back on terms and then claim victory when Delaney Powell sank a jump shot with the scores knotted at 80-80.
Storm were led by 18 points and five rebounds off the bench from big man Leome Francis, supported by 15 points and six rebounds from Freckleton. Henry also came off the bench to chip in 14 points and seven rebounds, while captain Adeluola added 11 points and five assists.
There was also a double-double from Levi Noel, with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Hemel’s league form is in stark contrast to their National Cup run where they now face the league’s third-placed team Loughborough Riders away this Sunday in the semi-finals of the competition that Storm won last term.
Storm team and scorers: Leome Francis 18, Blayne Freckleton 15, Leon Francis 14, Bode Adeluola 11, Levi Noel 10, Tom Adorian 4, Jamie Hayes 4, Jack Burnell 4, Sam Dunscombe, Shaquille Lewis and Ian Berry.
Storm’s last home game of 2018 is on Saturday, December 15 (tip-off 7pm), when the visitors are Manchester Magic. For more details, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.
n Storm’s second team recorded their fourth consecutive home victory in a low-scoring 60-49 triumph over Canterbury Christchurch Saints at JFK School in Hemel on Sunday in League Division Four.
Storm were paced by 20 points from Nick Allin, while Daryl Craine netted 10 and Rafe Abrook nine.