A season-best effort on the defensive end powered Hemel Storm to a crucial 77-61 away win over Nottingham Hoods on Saturday to push them to edge of the playoff positions.
Hemel maintained their late push for a slot in the coveted top-eight places for a post-season berth as they led from tip-off to buzzer in a convincing win on Saturday at Nottingham Hoods, who were just a place behind Hemel in the standings prior to this National League Division One clash.
With just five league games to go, the result reversed Storm’s two-point home loss to the Hoods last December and moved them up to ninth in the standings, just one spot and two points outside of a playoff position.
A short-handed Hemel side made an early statement of intent in Nottingham by jumping out to an impressive 16-point lead, 22-6, after less than seven minutes of the first quarter.
Blayne Freckleton led the charge for Hemel during this spell with 13 points, included two three-pointers.
Four of Storm’s starters – Bode Adeluola, Tom Adorian, TrayVonn Wright and Freckleton – all got onto the scoresheet by the time the first 10 minutes ended with Hemel ahead 28-16.
Nottingham were able to keep pace with Storm in a more even second period that the visitors won 20-18.
But the Hoods constantly found their path to the basket blocked by Hemel’s disruptive and determined defence – their best of the season so far – that ended up conceding nearly 28 points fewer than their average for the year.
After three minutes of the third quarter, eventual joint top scorer Adeluola finished a driving lay-up to give Storm a commanding 20-point lead at 56-36.
However, Hemel’s offence suddenly began to dry-up and the hosts, spurred on by their fans, mounted a spirited fight-back.
When Hoods’ guard Tom Ballantine got inside Hemel’s defence with two seconds of the quarter left to score at close range his side’s rally left them trailing by just seven points at 53-60 with ten minutes left to play.
But Hemel were in no mood to let the game slip and in a fourth-quarter defensive battle they were once again able to stifle Nottingham’s normally potent attack.
The visitors were able to hold the Hoods to a meagre eight points in the last stanza while scoring 17 themselves to seal an important victory.
Adeluola and new American forward TrayVonn Wright were joint top scorers for Hemel with 22 apiece.
Guard Adeluola also dished out seven assists and Wright grabbed nine rebounds.
Freckleton finished with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, while team captain Tom Adorian rounded out the double-figure scorers with 12 points and six rebounds.
Hemel head coach Robert Youngblood, a renowned exponent of tough defensive in his heyday as a player, was delighted with his team’s performance.
He said after the game: “We won with defence and teamwork. Our communication on defence was fantastic.
“We’re trusting each other, holding each other accountable and our team chemistry was at an all-time high.”
Storm now face a crunch double-header home stand this weekend which could determine their playoff fate.
On Saturday they take on third-placed Loughborough Riders at Hemel Leisure Centre (tip-off 7pm), which will be followed the very next day with the visit of fifth-placed Reading Rockets (tip-off 5pm).
Hemel lost 89-90 at Loughborough in the National Cup semi-final in December and were defeated 80-97 by Reading in the reverse league fixture back in November.
The club is offering a 20 per cent discount on tickets bought online for both games.
Visit the website www.stormbasketball.net for more information.
Hemel team and scorers v Hoods: Bode Adeluola 22, TrayVonn Wright 22, Blayne Freckleton 14, Tom Adorian 12, Levi Noel 4, Jamie Hayes 3, Jack Burnell and Will Ashby.