|Loughborough Student Riders||73||Win|
After the exhaustion of last night’s battle against the newly crowned league champions Team Northumbria, this appeared a game too far for Rockets whose long injury list became an issue this evening as their lack of strength in depth was highlighted by a fast, energetic and focused east Midlands outfit.
Loughborough began as they meant to go on with a treble to open the scoring before Rockets tied the scores on nine via Juan Valerio’s only treble of the evening and fine inside play by Chris Hooper. However Rockets were caught on too many occasions with length of the court passes giving Riders easy lay-ups and confidence, much to the delight of the young side. Paulin Jardim ended the first quarters scoring with a drive but Rockets found themselves on the wrong end of a 16-21 score line.
A great one too between Ali Sbai and Chris Hooper gave Sbai his first personal score of the game before Craig Ponder threaded himself through the eye of a needle to tie the game again on 21 each within the first minute of the second quarter. Rockets then missed a pair of trebles which were punished by Riders as they scored off both their possessions to edge ahead again. A Carter bounce pass gave Hooper another score before Fidel Gomez went to the floor to hustle for the ball but a 10-1 Riders run gave Rockets a double digit deficit at 25-37, something they hardly changed before the interval at 29-39.
Riders had played all their twelve players by the break but Rockets were having to compete with just seven fully fit guys. Rockets found themselves on the wrong end of rebound stats, quite a new experience for them but after a refocusing by Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces, penetrated Riders defence and got within five points at 34-39 thanks to a pair of free throws from Hooper and a Sbai treble. The crowd roared with appreciation and anticipation but again this student side went on a 6-0 run of their own to extend their advantage. A Hooper dish to Sbai who stroked another treble brought encouragement and then Hooper spun to score and Jardim made a steal and a slam. Back to back trebles form Riders saw them move slowly ahead again but a second Hooper dish and Sbai treble saw Rockets go into the final quarter just 54-60 down.
Rockets failed to score from their first possession and then missed a brace of free throws which Riders capitalised on with a fine treble moving eleven points ahead. A Rockets time out was heralded after Ponder scored on the buzzer and the score 60-65. Rockets supporters and most other folk in the arena when Hooper spun to score but for the umpteenth time, one of the officials called a travel , must to the frustration of Rockets. Nonetheless Ponder made a steal and score so with under two minutes to go Rockets were well in contention at 62-67. Then a huge and crucial treble by Riders was matched by a three point Ponder paly to again keep Rockets within five but when a pair of trebles rimmed out for Rockets the writing was on the wall and Rockets were to lose only their second game in the last four months at 66-73.
When the game ended it was announced that Rockets runners up contenders, Manchester Magic had also found themselves on the wrong end of the score line at Derby so next week’s game for Rockets in Manchester is a winner take it all tie as the victors will secure the league runners-up spot. If you want to join other supporters, Rockets are running a luxury coach to the Saturday game so contact Admin@readingrockets.co.uk.
Top scorers for Rockets were Chris Hooper with yet another double double of 18 pts., a and 16 rebounds; Craig Ponder with 14 pts., with captain Danny Carter and Ali Sbai hitting 11 pts., each
|19/03/2017||17:00||NBL Division 1||2016 / 2017|
|24 Richfield Ave, Reading, Reading RG1, UK|