Despite three of Rockets Academy players having just stepped off a plane following an elite sport and educational 2 weeks in Spain, coupled to the departure of Daniel Arcau, Rockets weren’t troubled as they stormed Sportspace in Hemel breezing into a 9 point opening period lead that they slowly increased to the end as they took a vital win securing a quarter final against Kent Crusaders in Canterbury on Sun 20th Nov.
American point guard Craig Ponder was again the architect for Rockets as he controlled the play, scored at crucial times and made assists for his teammates to finish. However power forward Chris Hooper again top scored as he made a real nuisance of himself for Hemel, scoring well inside, drawing fouls and taking down vital boards. Hemel opened the scoring before a Hooper slam soon followed by the first of shooting guard Juan Valerio’s four trebles. When Ponder drained another treble and Ali Sbai followed suit, Rockets had their first double digit advantage at 25-15 though the quarter finished 27-18 in Rockets favour.
The second period was a tighter affair as Storm hit three trebles but with big Hooper rejection coupled to 18 yo Bulgarian Paulin Jardim hitting his first treble of the season and captain Danny Carter wanting to join the party, Rockets edged this quarter 21-19 to go to the interval ahead by 48-37.
A lower scoring quarter was again edged by Rockets 17-15 as they increased their advantage thanks mainly to Valerio scoring a brace of trebles and Hooper being dominant around the boards adding the odd slam dunk into his scoring profile. Joel Keeble hit a long shot and 18 year old Sbai went coast to coast to score as Rockets opened up a 20 point lead at 62-42. Hemel stroked a pair of trebles and finished with a 10-0 run but Rockets had the last possession as Ponder sent a great pass to Valerio who didn’t disappoint with a superb buzzer beating treble and extending Rockets’ advantage to 13 points at 65-52.
Valerio scored first for Rockets with a finger roll before Ponder went coast to coast and Valerio made a wide treble as the Storm was weathered. Ibu Jassey Demba was fouled as he leapt to dunk and hit one from two from the line as Keeble worked tirelessly on the boards at both ends and just missed out on a fine finish when a wide treble came back off the ring. A Sbai pull up jump shot saw Rockets to a 84-67 victory and a chance to pursue the National Cup dream again.
Top scorers for Rockets were Chris Hooper with 20 pts., and both Juan Valerio and Craig Ponder with 18 pts., apiece. Rockets now travel up north for a weekend pair of games in Newcastle against Northumbria on Saturday night and then back to Bradford on Sunday afternoon in undoubtedly Rockets hardest games to date.
|30/10/2016||17:00||National Cup||2016 / 2017|
|Heath Ln, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire HP1, UK|