Hemel Storm beat bogey side Worthing Thunder 95-83 on Sunday to keep alive hopes of retaining the National Cup.
Hemel, who lost to Worthing in last year’s national playoff final and had already been defeated by the side in the league this term, pulled off a dramatic upset on Sunday afternoon at Hemel Leisure Centre.
It moved Hemel into the semi-finals of the cup competition they won last season – the club’s first national silverware in six years.
Worthing came into the game as firm favourites, having lost only once this season and sitting in second place in the National League Division One table.
The game looked to be going the way of the form book as Worthing led 48-42 at half-time behind 30 points from former BBL most valuable player Zaire Taylor.
But a sensational third period saw a re-energised Hemel roared on by a packed crowd turn up the heat defensively to hold the visitors to a meagre nine points, while pouring in 32 themselves to go into the final period 17 points ahead at 74-57 ahead.
Storm head coach Robert Youngblood said afterwards: “It was a great team effort, everyone was locked in and, of course, holding Taylor to just three points in the second-half swung the game our way.
“Levi [Noel] did a terrific job individually on him but he had help from everyone else too whenever it was needed.
”Our fans were fantastic, I thought the roof was going to come off!”
Throughout the outstanding third stanza Storm’s unselfish offence saw powerful Leome Francis (24 points, 11 rebounds, three assists) finish three possessions with dynamic crowd-pleasing dunks while Noel (26 points, eight rebounds and seven assists) led Hemel’s overall scoring.
The home team’s momentum was fuelled by three-pointers from Leon Henry, Jack Burnell and Blayne Freckleton.
Storm, who are tenth in the National League table with a single win and six losses, are now on a mission to retain the silverware they won in London last year and now go into the semi-final draw with Loughborough Riders, Essex Leopards and Solent Kestrels.
Hemel’s associate head coach Dave Titmuss added: “Our league form is disappointing, but we’re working hard to turn things around and on Sunday we were determined to defend our home court and our title.
“Our effort and tactics in that game-changing third period, especially, gave us a glimpse of what this season’s team is capable of.”
The cup victory was all the more impressive given that Storm played away the night before in the league against the undefeated leaders Solent Kestrels (7-0) and lost 58-78 after a late run in the fourth quarter.
Hemel team and scorers v Worthing: Levi Noel 26, Leome Francis 24, Leon Henry 17, Bode Adeluola 14, Blayne Freckleton 7, Jack Burnell 3, Ian Berry 2, Jamie Hayes 2, Tom Martin, Tom Adorian and Shaquille Lewis.
Hemel team and scorers v Solent: Francis 14, Adeluola 12, Noel 10, Freckleton 8, Adorian 4, Martin 4, Henry 4, Hayes 2, Berry and Burnell.
Storm are next at Hemel Leisure Centre on Saturday, December 1, when they entertain eight-placed Nottingham Hoods (3-3) in the league (tip-off 7pm).
This Saturday they travel to Barking Abbey Crusaders (1-4), who are just one place below Hemel in the standings, in another league clash.
For tickets or further information, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.
n Meanwhile, Hemel II’s recent run of form came to an abrupt end with a 30-point loss, 57-87, away to Southwark Pride in Division Four on Sunday.
It was clear from the outset that Hemel were in for a tough afternoon as they struggled to find their rhythm at both ends of the court.
Nick Allin was Storm II’s top scorer with 27 points.