After a prolonged journey troubled by a coach puncture coupled to a late tip off due to a serious injury to a player in the Ladies game that had preceded this Men’s Div.1 game, it took Rockets most of the first half to settle into the powerful performance that they displayed after the break. Without the services of captain Danny Carter, back injury, Rockets determination to avenge the first home league defeat in October by Derby by ten points showed through as they came back from 37-39 adrift at the interval to secure a fine 13 point victory on the road. This maintains Rockets in third place in the league and with leaders and league favourites Solent Kestrels picking up their second defeat either side of the Christmas break, there’s renewed hope for the trailing 3 / 4 teams including Rockets.
Head Coach Alan Keane has never been afraid to release the prodigious talent he has in Rockets academy and with Ronan O’Sullivan still out with a broken hand and Carter missing, James Jolly was included in the team together with 4 other regular academy youngsters and each played key roles. Arinze Emeka-Anyakwo played for 35 minutes and David Chive had 23 minutes too, showing their importance to this still developing team. Trailblazers also showed their desire to do the double over Rockets as they stormed the defensive boards with 19 rebounds compared to an unusually low 11 for the visitors, and were 50% more successful from inside and beyond the arc with their shootingas their leading marksman Malcolm Smith had 15 points and 5 rebounds before the break though Rockets restricted him to just 7 more points and 2 more rebounds in the second half. Derby extended their lead to 44-38 in the opening exchanges after the interval but a 33- 9 Rockets run almost exterminated the fire of the Trailblazers. Trae Pemberton was finding his three point shooting eye early in the game and exploded into it with five big trebles from the start of the third quarter till the final buzzer. However three of these trebles were also buzzer beaters, one from just inside his own half. With A J Carr scoring 13 points in the third period Rockets took off with a 34-14 quarter and a lead of 71-53 as the final stanza arrived.
Derby hit three trebles to try and get back into the contest but Coach Keane had clearly encouraged his players to rise to the boards as Rockets took the second half by 26-18 and the players shooting averages had much improved. They only missed one throw from the penalty stripe out of eleven. Keane was also using all his academy players no doubt thinking ahead of the following days game against south coast rivals and title contenders Worthing Thunderbut with less than 2 minutes remaining another ankle injury to the effervescent Irishman Adrian O’Sullivan dampened Rockets spirits a little as they journeyed home though high with a big victory securing that third league placing.
Rockers were led by double doubles from both their American players as Trae Pemberton had 28 pts., 11 rebounds and 6 assists with A J Carr hitting 26 pts.,and also having 11 rebounds.
|12/01/2019||19:15||NBL Division 1||2018 / 2019|
|Clarence Wiggins Sports Centre|
|14 Bracknell Dr, Derby DE24 0BP, UK|
After a 300 mile round trip on Saturday coupled to a late return in the early hours of Sunday morning AND the absence of effectively 3 Senior players, Rockets just didn’t have the strength in depth. Their energy levels and inexperience with 6 Academy players in the 10 players that took to the court, did their utmost to take the victory against second placed Thunder, but experience won the game.
A tight opening quarter saw both teams size each other up and unable to be separated at the first break at 24 each as three players from each team stroked trebles. The competitiveness and importance of the game saw both teams giving each other much respect and for the first time in Rockets history, the game was officiated by two female referees. A 6-2 quarter finish saw Thunder go the locker room 45-40 ahead at the interval.
The third period was again very tight as the lead was swapped with almost each offence but a wide treble from Thunder in the final seconds saw them sneak a 4 point advantage 63-59 as the final quarter beckoned. This was to be a disappointing period for Rockets as both Americans had worked themselves almost to a standstill over 24 hours at both ends of the court. The mercurial 16 yo Academy student David Chive and his 18 yo fellow student Arinze Emeka-Anyakwo had spent 32 and 33 minutes each on court in a titanic affair bringing them 10 pts, 6 rebounds and 3 assists and 9 pts and 3 rebounds respectively, as key contributors. Both guys have much opportunity ahead and Rockets has a healthy future. But Thunder’s experienced and seasoned campaigners kept Rockets to just 8 points in the fourth quarter as they hit 21 to see the final margin of victory as 84-67.
The packed Rivermead had witnessed a great battle and Rockets now look forward to a National Trophy semi-final in 2 weeks’ time when it’s hoped both O’Sullivans will be back in action from ankle ( Adrian ) and hand ( Ronan )injuries and captain Danny Carter having rested his back . The other Rockets top scorers were A J Carr with another double double of 21 pts and 10 rebounds complimented by 6 assists whilst Trae Pemberton had 14 pts and 4 rebounds. Sydney Donaldson took down 9 rebounds to add to his 7 points.
Look on Rockets website social media for confirmation of the date and venue for the semi-final as Rivermead is booked.
|13/01/2019||17:00||NBL Division 1||2018 / 2019|
|24 Richfield Ave, Reading, Reading RG1, UK|