Hemel Storm gamely fought back from several deficits but their shooting touch deserted them when they went down 93-79 when hosting a talented Thames Valley Cavaliers side on Saturday.
The National League Division One clash was played in front of a packed crowd at Hemel Leisure Centre against an in-form Cavaliers team (fourth, 9-5 record), who toppled league leaders Solent Kestrels the previous weekend.
The visitors got off to a blistering 29-15 first-quarter start, forcing Hemel to play catch-up.
Storm responded in the second period, winning it 23-19 behind 14 points from eventual top-scorer Leome Francis (25 points, 14 rebounds) and an offence orchestrated by captain Bode Adeluola (12 points, three assists).
But the Cavaliers came out for the second-half strongly and ran off a 23-14 third-quarter to go into the final period with a comfortable 71-52 edge.
And despite Storm edging the last 10 minutes, 27-22, it wasn’t enough to get the win.
Although Storm had difficulty matching the visitors’ size and athleticism they did battle well on the boards, eventually sharing the rebounding statistics. Hemel’s Francis and Tom Adorian (10 rebounds) led their team’s fight for missed shots.
But Storm’s defensive lapses which have been their Achille’s heel so far this season, and shooting at a relatively low success rate of 39 per cent, was the story of the defeat.
Hemel’s head coach Robert Youngblood, who substituted freely throughout the fixture in a bid to find a successful combination, said: “The crowd were fantastic and behind us on every possession.
“We were only down ten at half-time and everyone in the locker room knew we hadn’t done ourselves justice.
“We felt if we could take better care of the ball, compete on the boards and execute on offence, then our shots would begin to fall and give us a chance to win.
“But it wasn’t to be.
“You can credit Cavaliers too for taking us out of what we wanted to do on offence, but we should have adjusted better.
“We’re working hard each week to improve and we have a laser-like focus now on getting out of our current position and on heading towards a play-off spot.”
Storm have now dropped to bottom-but-one in the league table in 13th (3-9 record), in one of the two relegation spots alongside basement side Manchester Magic.
But they still have another 14 games left this season to turn things around and are only eight points adrift of Essex Leapoards in the eighth and final play-off place – and with two games in hand.
This Saturday’s scheduled home game against Reading Rockets has now been rescheduled to Sunday, March 17, which leaves Storm without a fixture and two weeks to prepare for their vital clash with tenth-placed Team Newcastle (5-8 record) . Storm lost narrowly, 80- 83, to the north-east side back in November and will look to get their recovery started in front of their home fans.
The game tips-off at 7pm on Saturday, February 2.
For tickets or more information, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.
Storm team and point scorers v Thames Valley: Leome Francis 25, Bode Adeluola 14, Levi Noel 12, Blayne Freckleton 11, Leon Henry 5, Shaquille Lewis 5, Tom Adorian 4, Jamie Hayes 2, Will Ashby 1, Ian Berry, Jack Burnell and Sam Dunscombe.
Hemel Storm II
Hemel’s second team had a disappointing 60-74 loss away at Westminster Dragons in a National League Division 4 clash on Sunday.
In a carbon copy of recent games, it was the hosts who grabbed the early initiative, scoring the first 15 points as Hemel failed to convert open shots.
But in what has become familiar for Hemel, they clawed their way back. A pressing defence created steals for the visitors which resulted in a flurry of first-half points for forward Craig Percival and strong play around the hoop from Lewis Castro gave Hemel a single-point advantage at half-time.
The momentum Hemel created dissipated early in the second-half as once again the scoring dried up and the Dragons seized the chance to turn the game back in their favour with some impressive long-range shooting. This time Storm couldn’t recover and Westminster extended the lead to 14 as Hemel were unsuccessful in their gambles to gain possession late on.
Storm ll boss David Allin said: “It’s very frustrating for us at the moment.
“We’re creating lots of good scoring opportunities but just can’t convert. We’ll make some adjustments that will hopefully rebuild our confidence.
“We’ve got a really tough game this weekend against Chelmsford but we’re back at home where we’ve been pretty successful this season so I expect a positive reaction.”
Storm ll team and scorers: Craig Percival 16, Lewis Castro 16, Rafe Abrook 6, Nick Allin 5, Daryl Craine 5, Shaun Allin 5, Mike Coumas 4, Ben Pearce 2, Dominic Charles 1, Raj Patel.