Hemel Storm tipped-off the new National League Division One season with an emphatic 103-69 away victory at newly-promoted Liverpool.
The hosts won 29 of their 30 games last term as they raced to the Division Two title and returned with much the same squad.
Storm travelled to Merseyside without new American signings Greg Poleon and Mike Williams, who have been delayed by visa issues.
It made Hemel’s 34-point victory all the more impressive in what could have been a potential banana skin for Storm, with one well-known British basketball blogger predicting a six-point win for Liverpool.
He couldn’t have been more wrong.
Hemel’s superb team performance saw balanced scoring and balanced minutes throughout, led by a superb triple double from Sam Newman with 12 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
The first quarter was close, with each team sounding each other out.
Storm edged it by six, 27-21, but came out with better intensity to take the second quarter 29-17 for an 18-point half-time advantage.
This was built on defensive intensity and Storm used their greater height to protect the rim, eventually amassing an impressive five blocked shots in the game.
Storm’s 7ft big men Lee Hodges and Ollie Dykes proved to be unguardable, shooting an impressive 75 and 66 per cent from their field goals, respectively.
Guard Will Ashby continued his accurate three-point shooting, hitting 42 per cent of his attempts, and was joined by a back-to-form Jack Burnell, who added 18 points on a 6-10 rate from beyond the arc.
The third quarter was closer, 24-23, but Storm’s dominance came through in the last ten minutes with a 23-8 display for a comfortable win.
Every player logged more than 15 minutes and six scored in double figures, while Hodges and Dykes combined for 20 rebounds to help spring the Storm offence.
Head coach Dru Spinks was a satisfied man after the game, saying: “A very good all-round team performance with contributions from everyone.
“We know there will be tougher tests ahead but we will be ready for them.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start.”
Storm scorers: Lee Hodges, 19 points, 11 rebounds, Jack Burnell, 18, Bode Adeluola, 14,Will Ashby 13, Sam Newman, 12 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists, Walid Mumuni, 11, Ollie Dykes, eight points, nine rebounds, Jake Murphy, eight points, seven rebounds.
Storm start their home league campaign this Saturday (7pm tip-off) when Nottingham Hoods will be the visitors to Hemel Hempstead Leisure Centre. Storm are hopeful Williams and Poleon will be available for the clash.
It will be the Hoods’ league opener after they had a blank slate last weekend.
For tickets or more information, visit the website www.stormbasketball.net.