Rockets travelled up north for a re-arranged league game with sickness in the camp. Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces left developing star Alex Drincic back home and added Adrian Nosa to his line up but Sydney Donaldson travelled in the hope the influential guard may have recovered enough to play a small part. Garces started him but after just 2 minutes Donaldson’s energy was exhausted and he remained on the bench. Such a loss for Rockets was matched only by grins form the opposition bench. Dragons though are the only team to have beaten the league leaders Loughborough this season and another title contender Hemel Storm, so Rockets knew this was going to be a tough game even with a fully fit squad.
Having defeated the Yorkshire side 95-74 just 4 weeks ago, Rockets were right to be confident on the journey north but it was clear from the tip that Dragons Head Coach Chris Mellor had stirred up his team as well as studied that game tape and had prepared well after a pair of defeats on the road the previous week. Donaldson’s only contribution was Rockets first score off the glass as the opening exchanges saw the lead change hands with regularity until Dragons went on a 10-2 run to lead 19-6. Tim Gill again worked hard inside scoring 9 personal points and his fellow American Scotty Hendricks hit Rockets sole treble at the end of the first quarter to keep Rockets in contention even though adrift by 18-23.
The 5 point deficit was increased to 7 at the interval thanks to three trebles and some fine team play by an in-form Dragons where everything was dropping and their defence strong. Ed Potter took a couple of big defensive rebounds and Ali Sbai opened his account with a lay-up before Jonny Foulds took down and offensive rebound, scored and drew the penalty stroke which he converted. But still the home side were shooting extremely well whilst Rockets percentage was just very low at just over 30. Dragons experienced duo of Sulcs and Hetske were prominent at their very best causing major headaches for Rockets at they trailed 39-46 at the break.
A Dragons treble to get the scoreboard moving at the start of the third period saw Rockets with a double digit deficit which was worsened as Dragons went on a 10-0 run. Rockets needed their fire back and it came in the form of Declan Soukup and Jonny Foulds with trebles and Foulds being his usual brave guy by taking a charge and stopping a certain Dragons score. The 9-0 Rockets run raised the hopes of the travelling supporters and the bench but a missed Rockets lay-up was punished by a Dragons treble fining the hosts enjoying a 60-51 lead at the start of the final quarter.
Despite being in foul trouble the Rockets fire had been ignited as they fought tenaciously to reduce the arrears to just 4 points at 57-61. A Hendricks block raised the game tempo and hopes but as they missed a treble, Dragons stroked one and with just over 4 minutes to go, Rockets trailed by 8. A Joel Keeble spin and a free throw from Hendricks kept Rockets in contention until Dragons converted 8 from 10 free throws in the last 3 minutes against another Soukup treble and a pair of penalty shots by Hendricks. With big man Gill fouled out midway through the final period, the ned game was going to be hard and that’s how it turned out, a depleted side with sickness in the camp was no match in the ned game against a confident home side playing well so Rockets had a long journey home but thankfully the snow didn’t start until they returned to the town in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Rockets can now enjoy a longer break than anticipated with no game next weekend returning Tt Rivermead on the first weekend of the New Year with a double header against Lancashire Spinners and Newcastle University.
Top scorers for Rockets were Scotty Hendricks with 19 pts, Tim Gill with 16 pts., and Declan Soukup with 10 pts.
|09/12/2017||18:15||NBL Division 1||2017 / 2018|
|Fleming Park Leisure Centre|
|Fleming Park Leisure Centre, Passfield Ave, Eastleigh SO50 9NL, UK|