Hemel Storm slipped to their first defeat of the new season away at Derby Trailblazers on Saturday when they went down by 26 points, 71-97, in the NBL Division One.
Hosts Derby, who had a 2-1 start to the season and lost last week to Worthing Thunder when in a position of victory, lined-up with last year’s MVP Malcolm Smith in their starting five.
Storm were unbeaten at 3-0 and equal top of the table going into the clash.
Hemel got off to the better start, leading 15-6 after four minutes, prompting a time out from the Blazers.
It prompted exactly the response their coach Matt Shaw was looking for, as a basket from Smith was followed by a dunk from Johde Campbell and a breakaway single-handed slam from Blake Bowman after guard Tre Wilford had stolen the ball.
Derby switched to a zone defence which Hemel failed to break down and it reduced the arrears to a single point.
The remainder of the quarter was close with Hemel taking a 28-27 lead at the break.
Derby took the lead midway through the second period with a three-pointer from Campbell and it proved to be an advantage they would not relinquish, leading 46-43 at the break.
The Blazers made a dominant start to the third stanza but Hemel fought back to cut the gap to 62-60, but that was as close as Storm would get, trailing 69-60 at the end of the third.
Suddenly it became showtime for the home team in the fourth and final quarter.
After Hemel missed their opening shot, Derby opened up a 16-point lead.
Such was the disarray in the Hemel ranks that they called a time-out less than two minutes into the quarter.
It did little to help their cause as Derby went on a 17-0 spurt to open up a large lead and a final score of 97-71.
Derby led Hemel in all statistical categories, holding Hemel to a meagre 37.2 per cent success rate from the floor and a paltry 16 per cent from long range.
By contract, Derby converted 49.4 per cent of their shots and 35.3 per cent from beyond the three-point arc.
Hemel were led by new US import Mike Williams with 19 points and 7ft centre Lee Hodges with 17, while guard Bode Adeluola had 13 points and Storm’s other US signing Greg Poleon with 12.
For Derby, Smith and Oli Stanley hit 17 and had double-doubles, collecting 12 and 11 rebounds respectively.
Jess Wesselingh added 16 points, Wilford 14, and Bowman and Campbell had 11 points each.
Storm will be hoping to put this disappointment behind them when they travel to local rivals Essex & Herts Leopards this Sunday (4pm tip-off) at The Brentwood Centre.
Hemel’s second team had a disappointing outing in their first league game of the NBL Division Three season at the weekend when they were beaten 75-95 by the University of Nottingham.
Storm were led by 7ft 3ins centre Ollie Dykes with 16 points, while Nick Allin added 15 and Daryl Craine 14.
Coach David Allin said: “We got ourselves in a great position to win the game but our loss of discipline at the end of the third quarter ultimately cost us.”
Storm II host Anglia Ruskin this Sunday (5pm tip-off) at JFK School in Hemel.