With a team depleted in number and carrying nagging injuries, this was an outstanding team display against title contenders who had beaten Rockets very early in the season by 12 points. Captain Danny Carter led the 8 players magnificently with the mercurial Craig Ponder, the grafting Chris Hooper and the sharp shooting Academy student Ali Sbai making major contributions.
Derby won the tip and scored within 4 secs to set the pace for the opening quarter, clearly looking to play a fast game and try and tire out a team with four players 19 and under, an injured 17 year old on the bench in case of emergencies and just three experienced players. How these guys were to overcome such adversity is a credit to their commitment, training and focus on the goal of winning the Div. 1 title after finding themselves with three losses in their first 4 games. Carter gave Paulin Jardim an easy lay-up and Hooper did what he does week in, week out by taking down a rebound and scoring. Carter and another assist to Hooper quickly followed by Ponder doing likewise as Rockets’ excellent team play was much on display. After two more assists by Carter he helped himself to a reverse base line score to ensure Rockets edged the opening period 23-19.
The second quarter was a joy to behold as Rockets took it 34-16. Rockets imposed themselves on a team that was above them before the tip and with whom Rockets needed a 13 point advantage to take the head to head should that be needed in this very competitive league at the end of the season.
Again Derby scored first but Ali Sbai had a purple patch making a steal and scoring seven personal points giving Rockets a double digit lead which they built upon for the remainder of the game with some panache too. 18 year old Ibu Demba Jassey made a crucial rebound and then was fouled in an unsportsmanlike manner from which he scored. An awesome final three minutes of the quarter saw Rockets blitz Derby by 18-6 with a buzzer beating treble from Ponder being the icing on the cake at 57-35.
Rockets knew Derby would be pressing and chasing everything as they sought to reduce the deficit and give themselves a fighting chance of the win but Jardim stood tall and strong to take a charge and Carter stroked another treble. Juan Valerio found his range with a treble, Carter made a big block and Sbai added five quick points to see a 22 point advantage as the final quarter beckoned at 78-56.
Carter threw himself to the floor to hustle for the ball but Rockets found themselves in team foul trouble within two minute of the re-start yet again they persevered, played cleverly as Hooper kept working away inside amassing 22 points and taking down 16 rebounds. Ponder took control scoring off drives, his trademark pull up jump shot and making assists as well as running the show for Rockets who, after Sbai hit another treble to ensure Rockets would be returning to Reading with a key victory, enabled Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces to bring off Carter, Hooper and Valerio to applause as Ponder stayed to the end enjoying the moment with the remainder of the players and coaching team.
Though Derby hit the last points this was a magnificent result of 93-75 seeing Rockets move to third in the table. Rockets’ physio now has his work cut out to get the injured players fit for next weekend’s home game against Essex Leopards tipping at 5 pm on Sunday 29th January.
Top scorers for Rockets were Craig Ponder with 30 points, 5 assists, 3 steals and 5 rebounds. Chris Hooper had 22 points, 16 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 blocks. Ali Sbai had 18 points, and captain Danny Carter had 11 points,7 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks in a comprehensive display.
|21/01/2017||19:15||NBL Division 1||2016 / 2017|
|Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre|
|14 Bracknell Dr, Derby DE24 0BP, UK|