Men fall just short as Storm hold out

Tola Okiki impressed in his first weekend of Ipswich Basketball action

Hemel Storm 83-76 Ipswich Basketball
BE National Cup 3rd Round
Sportspace, Hemel Hempstead

Looking to build on their first league win of the season, Ipswich went into a National Cup tie at Division I Hemel Storm and stunned the hosts before falling to a narrow defeat.

Ipswich set the tone of the game in the second quarter when they began to force errors from Hemel’s guards and draw the fouls at the other end.

Tola Okiki, on his second Ipswich appearance, was most prominent in getting to the free-throw line and hit his first nine attempts.

Ipswich outrebounded their opponents – who featured a certain Leigh Greenan starting at centre – and shot 90% from the free throw line in the first half to take a 37-31 lead back to the locker room.

Okiki had 11 by the break, with Rabi Rai chipping in ten and Colin Dockrell on eight.

Dockrell added another 14 points in the second half – on just six more shots – to finish with a team-high 22, but it was another big man who would decide the fate of the contest.

Colin Dockrell’s efficient offense kept Ipswich ticking throughout (Image: Nick Winter)

With Ipswich having maintained their lead into the 28th minute of the game, Greenan exploded for a series of dunks as the Storm produced a 16-1 run to change the nature of the game and flip a slender disadvantage into a ten-point lead at the end of the quarter.

Dockrell and Rai hit back with some big shots in the fourth quarter but Hemel had enough in the tank to answer most of the scores. Despite winning three quarters out of four, Ipswich couldn’t produce a big enough run to complete the comeback.

“We produced a tremendous effort today,” said Coach John Ellis.

“Aside from a two-minute spell near the end of the third quarter, we outscored a fully-staffed Division I programme on their court.

“I have thought back through the entire game and the performances of coaches and players alike, and I cannot fault our guys for their work rate and energy tonight.”

Rai added 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Okiki finished on 19 points to support Dockrell’s 22. Greenan led Hemel with 18 points and seven rebounds, but the hosts’ more balanced scoring was the key, with seven players scoring at least seven points.

Ipswich face a test next weekend when they travel back up north to face the Nottingham Hoods and their new American arrival, Tevis Robinson – who scored 55 points this weekend.