Hemel’s six-game winning streak looked like ending at Sportspace on Sunday when they trailed Worthing by six points with less than two minutes left in their National League Division One clash.
But in a frenzied atmosphere, the packed crowd erupted when Hemel Storm’s Mike Darlow broke lose to sink a three-pointer before AJ Roberts hit nothing but net from beyond the arc to knot the scores at 89 points each with just over a minute remaining.
Storm’s loyal fans cheered the home team on to a 91-89 victory and keep the side level on points with Loughborough Riders at the top of the table.
Worthing Thunder’s coach Daniel Gayle called a time-out to reorganise his team after Darlow and Roberts’ back-to-back triples but Storm then produced an outstanding defensive stand to force the visitors’ American star Zaire Taylor to attempt a challenged three-pointer from well behind the arc.
There was a scramble for the rebound and Roberts snared the ball as it bounced off a Worthing player’s hand.
With the clock ticking down Hemel’s Walid Mumuni found teammate Wayne Yeboah with a crisp pass and despite having two Thunder defenders pressuring him, Yeboah drove inside the key and scored a lay-up with 18 seconds left giving Hemel a 91-89 edge.
But the drama wasn’t over.
With Thunder’s next possession, Jorge Ebanks drove the length of the court and was adjudged to have been fouled while attempting a close-range shot. With the crowd on its feet, Ebanks stepped up to the free-throw line with a chance to tie the scores, but his first attempt hit the back of the basket and bounced away and his second fell short before being grabbed by Hemel’s Dave Ajumobi.
With three seconds left Worthing fouled Storm’s 7ft centre Lee Greenan to stop the clock but, he too, missed both free-throws which gave Taylor a chance at a heave from three-quarter-court but the effort missed and Storm’s comeback was complete.
The high-scoring game had see-sawed throughout with Storm showing early dominance behind five three-point baskets in the first period to lead 33-24.
However a much-improved Worthing performance in the second stanza triggered by the scoring of the visitors’ former BBL Most Valuable Player award winner Taylor, ended at only 56-50 in Storm’s favour.
A 16-4 Thunder run in the third period gave the visitors the lead for the first time at 72 -69 and when Taylor scored another three-pointer, Worthing opened a worrying 10-point lead at 79-69.
But Hemel chipped away at the deficit behind baskets from Bode Adeluola, Yeboah and Storm’s eventual top-scorer Adjumobi (27 points) while Taylor’s contribution in the final period was cut back to seven points with Yeboah assigned to cover the visiting star.
Storm’s seventh win in a row in all competitions delighted head coach Robert Youngblood who was quick to point out the role that the club’s fans had played in the victory.
He said: “The Storm fans were fantastic and without them I don’t think the outcome would have been the same. The last four minutes of the game showed the chemistry and staying together in close games that has been a feature of our win streak.
“We refused to lose.”
But Youngblood was concerned about his team’s first-half defensive performance, adding: “We played really well offensively but giving up 50 points in a half when we’ve been holding teams to 67 points a game wasn’t good enough.
“I thought Wayne’s individual defence on Taylor in the second-half was a key to this massive win and David [Ajumobi] was huge for us too.
“For me, the MVP award for this game was our fans!”
Storm are now second in the National League Division One table behind Loughborough Riders with the same points (10) and identical win-loss record (5-1) but an inferior overall points difference.
Storm v Worthing: Dave Adjumobi 27, AJ Roberts 14, Wayne Yeboah 14, Mike Darlow 13, Bode Adeluola 11, Jack Burnell 7, Lee Greenan 5, Walid Mumuni, Rhyce Donegal, Tom Adorian, Chuck Duru, Courtney Van-Beest (injured).
Next up is another tough weekend double-header when Hemel travel up north to face third-ranked Manchester Magic this Saturday in a tantalising league clash before travelling down south to take on the Thames Valley Cavaliers in the National Cup quarter-final this Sunday.
Storm’s next home game is on Saturday, November 25, at Sportspace, tip-off at 7pm, when the visitors will be Bradford Dragons. For tickets and other details, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.