With Leopards hitting a treble off their first possession followed by a couple more before the first interval, Rockets knew immediately they were in for a tough contest despite Leopards league position. But though Craig Ponder was sick all week and Chris Hooper is still suffering from a recurring back injury as is captain Danny Carter, this Rockets side is nothing if not most resilient as again the lesser experienced and younger players ( five under 21 ) played their part in a thrilling contest at Rivermead on Sunday late afternoon.
Juan Valerio stroked a glorious wide treble to set Rockets on their way before a drive and finger roll from Ponder, four quick Hooper points and an Ali Sbai base line score levelled it at 11 points apiece. Carter made a three point play and Valerio finished a drive but a pair of Leopards threes saw them have the first interval lead of 21-19. The visitors helped themselves to another treble to take a five point advantage early in the second quarter though that was their biggest lead and the final time they led Rockets as Carter hit a long treble, Hooper was safe from the penalty stripe and after 26 each, Rockets powered their way to second in the league as they finished with a 21-9 run to lead by 42-35 at half time.
A 23-20 third period ensured Rockets had a double digit advantage going into the final quarter as Chris Hooper continued to dominate the boards, made rejections and blocks and finished well inside the paint. Whatever Leopards tried to stop his grafting and excellent finishing from extremely tough situations, Hooper lapped it up and spurred him to a season high 40 personal points and 23 rebounds, an awesome display by the small forward. 18 year old Ibu Jassey Demba made a crucial block and then made a steal which he finished with an exquisite finger roll. Rockets team determination to get the win was highlighted by three of the players scrambling for possession before winning it and sending clinical passes to each other before Hooper was privileged with the lay-up to finish the sequence and secure a 65-55 advantage as the final quarter beckoned. Confounding the spectators, Ponder leapt to take a high pass and on returning to the ground, but before he hit it, was called for his fourth foul adding pressure to this young Rockets team.
This just seemed to galvanise them as Sbai stroked a wide treble, Hooper scored ( again ) off his own offensive rebound and Rockets had a comfortable fifteen point lead within the first minute of the start of the fourth period at 70-55. Leopards went on a 8-0 run but experienced captain Danny Carter stopped the rot before Hooper returned to his immense points scoring and rebounding display. A Sbai defensive rebound and assist to Hooper followed by a Ponder pair of free throws and a Jassey Demba assist gave captain Carter a slam dunk finish as he was rested with a couple of minutes remaining. It had to be Hooper to score Rockets’ last points which he did and Ponder made a block to ensure Rockets had a 15 point victory by 89-74 .
After the opening quarter they had won each of the other three periods and increased their advantage incrementally at each as they head into the last 2 months of league competition. Don’t miss next Saturday’s game at Rivermead which tips at 6 pm as Rockets seek to continue their winning streak to eleven. Top scorers for Rockets were Chris Hooper with 40 points and 23 rebounds; Craig Ponder with 17 points, and Danny Carter with 16 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
|29/01/2017||17:00||NBL Division 1||2016 / 2017|
|24 Richfield Ave, Reading, Reading RG1, UK|