Storm’s leaky defence costs them twice in double header

Hemel Storm's Will Ashby, who was stretched off on Saturday against Bradford. (Picture: Lin Titmuss).
Hemel Storm's Will Ashby, who was stretched off on Saturday against Bradford. (Picture: Lin Titmuss).

Hemel Storm slipped to two defeats at the weekend after they lost to Bradford Dragons 84-114 at home on Saturday and were defeated 80-97 on the road at Reading Rockets less than 24 hours later.

The double-header losses in the National League Division One leave Hemel in tenth place in the 14-team standings and with just one league win from six on the season so far.

Storm’s game against Bradford at Hemel Leisure Centre on Saturday was delayed 45 minutes early in the third quarter when guard Will Ashby crashed to the court and dislocated his arm directly under the visitors’ basket.

Paramedics treated him and the hushed crowd stood to applaud him as he left the arena on a trolley for hospital. Ashby is recovering at home and is not expected to return to the team until late January.

A display of outstanding shooting by Bradford punished Storm’s porous defence as the visitors got off to a dominant start, leading 31-17 after the first period. The Dragons were on fire from outside the arc, knocking down 11 triples at a 45 per cent success rate on their way to a 30-point lead mid-way through the third period that they held until the final buzzer.

Storm rallied in the fourth quarter, winning it 29-25, but it was too little too late. Levi Noel had a team-high 18 points for Hemel and added six rebounds and two assists, Tom Adorian added 12 points and grabbed seven rebounds while Leome Francis came off the bench to chip in with 10 points and three boards.

Storm completed their back-to-back weekend by heading to Reading for a Sunday late afternoon clash. An improved performance on the previous night saw them trail by just a point, 61-62, going into the final period.

But Hemel’s offence dried-up and their man-to-man defence conceded an 18-1 run that included four straight three-pointers which killed the game off. Despite pulling the Reading lead back to 10 points at 74-84, a flurry of scores down the stretch saw the Rockets pull away again.

For Storm, Blayne Freckleton knocked down 11 free-throws on his way to a 31-point haul, while Noel had 13 points and six boards.

Hemel’s associate head coach Dave Titmuss said: “I think we need these tough games to refocus our priorities. We’re just not firing on all cylinders, but results like these will only strengthen our resolve to get better.”

Storm face two more stern tests this weekend when they visit undefeated leaders Solent Kestrels on Saturday in a league clash, and then return to Hemel Leisure Centre on Sunday to face Worthing Thunder in the quarter-finals of the National Cup (tip-off 5pm), where Storm are the reigning champions.

Team and scorers v Bradford: Levi Noel 18, Tom Adorian 12, Leome Francis 10, Bode Adeluola 9, Blayne Freckleton 9, Leon Henry 9, Jamie Hayes 6, Ian Berry 4, Will Ashby 2, Sam Dunscombe 1, Jack Burnell.

Team and scorers v Reading: Blayne Freckleton 31, Levi Noel 13, Leon Henry 10, Ian Berry 9, Leome Francis 8, Bode Adeluola 7, Jamie Hayes 2, Jack Burnell, Tom Martin, Sam Dunscombe, Tom Adorian.