Rockets did finally slay the Dragons but not until the final quarter where a 25-11 score line made the crucial difference as a determined Dragons team fought tenaciously and well throughout. Rockets preparation had been thrown into disarray with shooting guard Scotty Hendricks in his sick bed and Danny Carter having only been able to do a couple of training sessions due to the birth of his first child. Nonetheless with assistant coach Alan Keane away at the Commonwealth Games with England, Director of Coaching Matt Johnson stepped into the breach supporting Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces.
Realising Hendricks might not have as much in his tank as usual, Pena Garces started him and was rewarded with a 7 point contribution which included a smart treble, a drive and a lay-up. Dragons kept in close contention drawing level on 9 and 11 respectively before moving ahead with a 6-0 run which was only stopped by a great interception by Man of the Match Declan Soukup. Tim Gill pulled down a couple of offensive rebounds to score inside and see Rockets with a slender 19-16 lead at the end of the opening quarter.
The second period saw six trebles shared by the teams with captain Danny Carter hitting back to back ones after the scores had been tied on, 21, 23 and 25. Ed Potter accepted an arrow pass from Soukup to score and then spun to score again. Having had to spend much of the opening quarter on the bench after picking up a couple of personal fouls, Sydney Donaldson drove to open his account and give Rockets a 36-28 advantage with less than two minutes before the interval but again Dragons came back with a 11-2 finish leaving the score 41-40 at the break.
An 8-2 Dragons start to the third period saw Rockets 5 down which Dragons extended to nine within four minutes of the quarter starting at 55-46 . With Donaldson quickly picking up his fourth personal foul, Rockets were facing a huge fight to secure a semi final place as Hendricks had fallen and injured his hand though after minutes with the physio team, he persuaded them to release him back on court where he added 7 more points. With Soukup playing a majorly influential part as he coordinated all that best from Rockets, the packed arena knew Rockets still were in this most competitive of games where the winner takes all. Soukup and Ali Sbai was secure from the free throw line but Dragons took the period 27-22 to start the final quarter 67-63 ahead.
Hendricks was now clearly in some pain as he stayed on the bench with his head covered with a towel but his American colleague Tim Gill played an outstanding quarter with 11 personal points and 4 rebounds as he spun to score, went inside drawing fouls and finished assists from Soukup. Soukup also took control of the game by the haunches as he scored an audacious treble to help Rockets take the lead at 70-69 on the back of a 7-2 run. Rockets highest crowd of the season raised their voices and after Dragons drew level on 72, it was only Rockets from then on as they commanded the boards, finished clinically and stopped Dragons scoring with some great defence. A 25-11 final quarter reflected Rockets dominance in this period as they secured the vital win and a semi-final away to Hemel Storm. This will be played at Sportspace, Hemel on Saturday night with a 7 pm tip. In the two league games Rockets won at home by a single point but lost away by seven so a tough tie lies ahead for the Berkshire outfit to secure a Championship Play-off Final spot.
Top scorers for Rockets were the magnificent Declan Soukup with a double double of 26 points, 10 rebounds coupled to 5 assists. Tim Gill had a double double with 15 pts ( 11 in the last quarter ) and 10 rebounds as captain Danny Carter and the injured Scotty Hendricks hit 14 pts.’ each.
|08/04/2018||17:00||NBL Division 1||2017 / 2018|
|24 Richfield Ave, Reading, Reading RG1, UK|