Hemel Storm mounted an amazing comeback to force overtime against a talented Loughborough Riders side on Saturday but ultimately fell short 88-80.
Storm were 20 points adrift going into the last quarter on the road against Riders on Saturday in this National League Division One clash.
But an incredible defensive effort against the second-ranked Riders saw Storm claw back the entire margin and with five seconds left they had a shot to win the game.
With the scores tied at 74-74 and just seconds remaining, Storm coach Robert Youngblood called a time-out and diagrammed a play designed to spring free Hemel’s leading scorer AJ Roberts for the potential winning basket.
However the American guard’s effort bounced agonisingly off the ring as the buzzer sounded, sending the game into overtime.
Hemel’s fourth-quarter defence held the league’s third-highest scoring team to a meagre six points – Riders’ lowest score in a quarter all season, where they usually average 20.61 points a quarter.
And Storm’s offence finally clicked, sparked by a big three-pointer from Roberts as the visitors hit in 26 points to set-up the game’s dramatic finale.
Hemel, though, tired in the overtime period and could not maintain the intense defensive effort that had almost given them a shock victory.
Riders won the extra period 14-6 to push Hemel down to seventh in the league standings and their fourth loss in five outings.
Youngblood recognised the supreme fourth-quarter effort from his side but he was disappointed that Hemel dug themselves such a hole after losing each of the first three periods, 21-16, 27-17 and 20-15.
He said: “I don’t think many people would have given us much chance but I thought the character of our guys really shone through.
“When you’re as cold on offence as we were for the first three periods you have to find a way to get back into the game. It was a magnificent effort and we couldn’t have asked for anything more – we had the final possession and a chance to pull off the win.”
Storm, who won the National Cup in January after beating Loughborough in the semi-final, are now in the penultimate playoff place in the National League table, level on points with eighth-placed Manchester, with four games left to play.
They are now in a dog fight for these final post-season spots . Hemel have a must-win clash when hosting Kent Crusaders this Saturday at Sportspace. Storm are just two points ahead of ninth-place Kent so a loss would be highly damaging to their playoff hopes. They will be mindful of the danger Crusaders pose as they lost the reverse fixture 79-76 in January.
On Sunday Storm then travel to 10th-placed Leicester Warriors, who Hemel lost to 83-77 in December.
Storm v Riders: AJ Roberts 16, Wayne Yeboah 14, Lee Greenan 11, Walid Mumuni 7, Michael Darlow 7, Jack Burnell 7, Courtney Van-Beest 7, Tom Adorian 6, Bode Adeluola 5, David Ajumobi, Chuck Duru and Ladi Brown.
The tip-off against Kent this Saturday is at 7pm.
For tickets or further details, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.