A successful double-header on the road over the weekend saw Hemel Storm improve to 5-1 on the season to move up to third in the league table and then also progress to the next round of the National Cup.
Hemel’s winning weekend started on Saturday when they doled out just the second loss of the season to fellow NBL Division One top-four side Thames Valley, brushing aside the Cavaliers by ten points, 113-103.
Less than 24 hours’ later, Storm hit the road again to better BC Medelynas London by a resounding 31 points, 99-68, to win a cup third-round tie on Sunday afternoon.
Storm’s league clash on Saturday was their best performance of the season so far, winning away at a good Thames Valley side.
Both sides had started the league term well, boasting matching 4-1 records going into the fixture.
Thames Valley have been powered by their two American imports Martelle Mclemore and Taylor Johnson, but it was Storm’s US stars Mike Williams and Greg Polean who stole the show on Saturday.
Williams led all scorers with 34 points on a superbly efficient 67 per cent shooting clip, while the 6ft 6ins Polean added 21 points and grabbed ten rebounds for a double-double in just 19 minutes of play before fouling out in the fourth quarter.
Thames Valley opened with a 6-2 run – but that would prove to the hosts’ biggest lead of the night as Storm replied with great team basketball to move ahead by five, 33-28, by the end of the first quarter.
A back-to-form Sam Newman paced the second quarter for Hemel on his way to 19 points, helping to stretch the advantage to 63-51 as Storm hit 11 unanswered points.
Storm’s 7ft centre Lee Hodges again dominated the boards with 13 rebounds and he chipped in with 17 points for his own double-double outing, but points were coming from across the team.
The third quarter was a more even affair, but Storm withstood whatever the Cavaliers threw at them, including 18 points from ex-Storm guard Blayne Freckleton.
The visitors were able to see the game out in the fourth quarter as they exited with a fine 113-103 victory.
Bode Adeluola added 12 points for Storm, while Mclemore led the Cavaliers with 24 and team-mate Abdoulaye Sylla added 18 rebounds and 22 points.
Sunday’s cup game saw Hemel travel to NBL Division Two outfit BC Medelynas, a Lithuanian team based in London.
Due to cup rules, Storm were only allowed to use one American and the taller Polean got the nod over Williams due to the opposition’s size.
This ended up being a good call as Polean proved to be unstoppable with his jump shot from the top of the key, leading all scorers with 29 points.
Newman completed a good scoring weekend with 20, Adeluola hit 16 and Jack Burrell contributed 13.
The draw for the fourth round has not yet been completed but Storm will be in the hat for the next cup ties taking place on Saturday, November 24.
Heml coach Dru Spinks said: “Some positive steps [were] taken this weekend.
“We were pleased with our collective approach to this double-header.
“In both games there were moments of struggle and it was pleasing to see the manner of the team’s response.
“They showed encouraging signs at this stage of the season. We had some really good moments and displayed a real commitment to our technical execution, tactical execution and team behaviour.
“However we recognise there is a lot of work to do to meet our standards.
“We are looking forward to working on these as we move forward.”
In other good news for the club, Williams was announced as the NBL Division One Player of the Week for last week, the second time this season a Storm player has earned the accolade after Lee Hodges won it several weeks ago.
Storm return home to Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre this Saturday when they host the seventh-ranked Loughborough Riders (4-2).
Tip-off is at 7pm.
For tickets or further information, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.
n Storm’s second team went down 108-115 away at Bury St Edmunds Bulldogs after a cruel triple-overtime loss in NBL Division Three.
Nick Allin paced Hemel with 39 points.