Hemel Storm 82 v 80 Reading Rockets
Having lost a titanic battle against joint league leaders Thames Valley Cavaliers on Tuesday evening, Rockets travelled to joint third side Hemel Storm on Saturday and came tantalisingly close to an upset as they led for over 38 of the 40 minutes but lost to a treble shot in the final minute. This was a tougher loss to take than Tuesday as Rockets lead from the first minute, lead at the midway stage of each quarter and at the end but not at the buzzer.
A fast moving Rockets were quick out of the blocks as Leome Francis did his work inside to open Rockets scoring off their first possession before O’Showen Williams showed his visionary skills as he dished a pass to Sam Toluwase to drain a treble. When Williams repeated the pass and Toluwase scored again Rockets enjoyed a 7-0 opening run. Toluwase was most prominent as he received assists from Williams and Reis Pinnock to take his personal tally into double figures early in the period. Hemel stormed back but Toluwase finished with a slam before his power froward partner Leome Francis scored three points and Williams stroked a treble. However the ever dangerous sharp shooting Storm hit a buzzer beating treble to see Rockets still with a 26-20 first quarter advantage.
A Williams drive followed by taking a charge couped to a Chuck Duru off the glass finish saw Rockets with a double digit lead at 30-20. A Storm treble was immediately responded to by a Jaz Bains one but Storm hit three more as they stayed in touch, finishing the quarter with another treble to see the period tied on 16 points each and the score 42-36 to Rockets at the interval.
Francis and Pinnock got Rockets off to a great start in quarter three again giving them a ten point lead but Storm hit four more trebles as they fought back tying the game on 52 and 54 before briefly taking the lead momentarily on 57-56. A Francis turn and score followed by a Duru block and a Williams drive in the final seconds of the third period saw Rockets still ahead but with a reduced lead of just one at 62-61.
A Ben Dixon dish to Bains quickly followed by a Williams assist to Kivuvu Live to score off the glass twice in quick succession saw Rockets enjoy an 8 point advantage. A Storm treble was equalled by Dixon one but another Storm treble and free throw saw them just a single point adrift at 72-71 midway through the last quarter. The game was tied on 75 before Francis kept Rockets noses ahead with an inside score. A Pinnock defensive rebound stopped a Storm score though a tough referee call disallowed a Pinnock score for travel but Rockets were still two up with 1.14 seconds left. Strom scored and drew the foul so added a bonus point to lead 78-77 but a Williams score saw Rockets ahead with 36.5 secs remaining. Storm called a time out and then, fortuitously hit a buzzer beating treble having lost possession as the 24 second clock was nearly out of time. Rockets called a time out and Williams hit a free throw to go just a single point down but a Storm free throw saw the hosts take the win and leave Rockets thoroughly down after suffering two consecutive defeats to 2 of the top 3 teams in the league. Nonetheless the Play-off Championship start on 24th April.
Top scorers for Rockets were O’Showen Williams with 22 pts, 9 rebounds and 5 assists with both power forwards Sam Toluwase and Leome Francis sharing the spoils with 16 pts each though Francis had a double double as he also took down 12 rebounds.