Essex Leopards 73 v 90 Reading Rockets
After a tortuous journey to Brentwood in the Friday evening and international football traffic, Rockets were slow out of the blocks and Leopards made hay stroking three trebles in an opening quarter that saw the Essex side lead by 28-16. Rockets most effective offensive threesome of Craig Ponder, Chris Hooper and captain Danny Carter kept Rockets in touch as University student Paulin Jardim and Academy star Ibu Demba Jassey opened their personal accounts.
Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces refocused his team and upped the tempo as Rockets young side stole the ball, fought tenaciously for it and dived on the floor to gain possession, much to the delight of the travelling supporters and the coaching team. A 10-0 run brought Rockets very close and within another couple of stops and solid offences, Rockets edged ahead at 33-32. Leopards responded as they wanted to take an important win and despite a pair of Ali Sbai trebles, 10 and 8 points respectively from Ponder and Hooper, Leopards held a single point advantage at the interval at 43-42.
Ponder had begun to run the show for Rockets and a further 20 points in the second half confirmed his influence on the game. He sprayed assists to his colleagues, drove determinedly drawing fouls and scored through the eye of a needle on more than one occasion whilst also finding his treble distance shooting. A nip and tuck start to the third period saw Rockets still adrift by three to five points with less than three minutes to go to the final quarter at 53-58. However an 11-0 run and stout defence turned the tables in Rockets favour as they took a 64-58 advantage highlighted by an end of quarter buzzer beating huge treble by Ponder ensuring the whole team, bench, coaching team and supporters rose to their feet to applaud the young American. Only Ponder, Hooper and Carter had scored in this quarter but Fidel Gomez was big in defence and a brace of Sbai stops much helped the team.
More Gomez defence, supported by Jardim and assists from Sbai helped Ponder and Carter stroke trebles, the latter of which opened up a double digit lead that was the beginning of a strong finish by Rockets. Hooper continued to work tirelessly inside tormenting the Leopards defence and as Rockets took the last period 26-15, they had kept the Essex side to just 15 points in each of the last three quarters whilst amassing some 74 points themselves.
Top scorers were Craig Ponder with 34 points, Chris Hooper with 27 points, and Danny Carter with 17 points. Rockets now have a double header weekend to look forward to with a home fixture at Bohunt School on Saturday against Leicester Warriors and then an away trip in the quarter final of the National Cup against Kent Crusaders on Sunday, tipping at 6 pm and 2 pm respectively.
|11/11/2016||20:00||NBL Division 1||2016 / 2017|