In their first competitive game of the new season, Rockets new recruits (5) and young pretenders (5) showed much potential and promise though losing to south coast rivals Thunder in the National Trophy Pool game on Saturday night.
Rockets led for over 70% of the game but lost the lead in the crucial final quarter when new American signing Chris Hooper fouled out with the score at 66-65 in Rockets favour, Thunder turned the screw and edged the last 7 minutes to take the tie. Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces had much to cherish and saw much that gives him hope for the long season ahead. Hooper scored 1.5 points for every minute he was on court, made a pair of blocks but fell foul of the referees as he and his other American colleague, Craig Ponder re-adjust to the calls given this side of the pond. Ponder has only been to one full training session and one friendly game before experiencing the Thunderdome, from which Rockets coaching team are sure he’ll make a significant contribution to the season ahead.
Captain Danny Carter led from the front with major contributions in quarters two and three when he amassed 19 points as he and Hooper controlled the boards and dominated the paint, a sure area of much success to come with the two big men. New Spanish centre Dani Arcau was prominent with rebounds but didn’t get his offensive game going as he’d wish but these are early days. Ali Sbai, one of three Academy guys now plying their trade in the Senior team as they step up this season, was prominent taking down 8 rebounds, making 3 assists and a steal in a very promising game for the future for the young Brit. Most recent signing Juan Valerio hit three trebles to show his shooting prowess whilst Bulgarian U 20 Paulin Jardim showed his defensive attributes. Rockets 17 yo Spaniard Fidel Gomez hit the floor hard in the third period and didn’t return as he was taken to hospital to be checked over. He’s fine and will again be a key member of the new team. The third Academy player making the progression to the Senior team, Ibu Jassey Demba gave an assist and showed himself to be worthy of his place as returning Joel Keeble showed he had more confidence after an intensive summer programme for the shooting guard.
A 19-16 opening quarter and a half time single point lead of 41-40 reminded supporters that these south coast rivals games are always close encounters and this game was not to disappoint either. With Hooper scoring ten points in his first quarter in English basketball and Valerio hitting a trademark treble, Pena Garces and his new assistant, England U 16 Head Coach Alan Keane, saw much to please them even if the final quarter highlighted the importance of staying on the right side of the officials, especially to the new recruits. Rockets indiscipline had allowed Thunder to go to the free throw line 33 times compared with Rockets 13 visits with Thunder making 12 more successes than Rockets form here alone.
Even with just 44.7 seconds left Rockets were only trailing by 73-71 but when Thunder missed both free throws, Rockets failed to take the rebound and Thunder kept the ball for some 20 seconds before stroking a killer treble and effectively the game. This makes Worthing favourites to progress to the semi- final stage of the Trophy with Solent Stars the other team and league newcomers in the pool and who Rockets face at home in 2 weeks’ time on Saturday 2nd Oct.
Top scorers for Rockets were Chris Hooper with 22 pts, Danny Crater with 19 pts and both point guards Craig Ponder and Juan Valerio with 9 points each.
|17/09/2016||19:30||National Trophy||2016 / 2017|
|46 Shaftesbury Ave, Worthing, West Sussex BN12 4EQ, UK|