After a tough away game the evening before in Essex and four of his senior players injured or sick, it was a depleted in number team that Head Coach Alan Keane took to the north midlands opposition in the fourth round of the National Cup, topped up again with two more academy players Michael Perez and Jacob Cirtautas.
The game opened with Rockets only senior five players conscious that they’d be playing much more than usual and needing to be careful to also not to get into foul trouble. Hoods opened the scoring and then the teams exchanged scores with every offensive as Liam Davis and Nick Richards got Rockets onto the scoreboard. Matias Boho blocked a certain score and Richards stroked a fine treble but back to back trebles from Hoods saw them in the ascendency backed by a noisy and excited crowd inside the arena. A J Carr sent the first of his assists to Davis and the scores were level on 11 apiece. A Hoods treble and three jump shots was answered by a Ben Dixon treble and drive and finish but Rockets found themselves 22-28 down at the end of the opening quarter.
The second period saw Hoods hit three consecutive trebles at the start and ease into a 41-28 lead. Rockets were turning the ball over far too much and compounding this by not being clinical at the offensive end but an awesome 18-3 run gave them an interval advantage of 46-44 as Carr lit up the venue with three trebles and three other scores to take his personal tally to 19 points. From thirteen adrift to two up was a big statement from the Berkshire outfit and meant they were very much still in contention for that quarter final place.
As expected the third period was going to be hard fought as both teams tried to take control but neither did. Hoods levelled on 46 points with the first offensive but six points from Rockets via a Davis pull up and slam dunk coupled to a Dixon assist to Richards to score opened up a 6 point lead. However Hoods did likewise to level on 52 apiece. A Dixon assist to Ross Stepney saw the academy player score before a crucial wide treble from Boho levelled the scores moments before he made a key steal as Hoods looked to extend their lead. Dixon was wiped out as he drove to score but didn’t get any foul from the officials who had a very good game with only 15 fouls called in the whole game and only 5 against Rockets. Nonetheless moments later Boho made a steal and Richards scored and then the courageous Australian Dixon took a charge. It was truly nip and tuck as the scores were equal on 54, 56 and 58 as a 16 points haul for both teams saw Rockets go into the final stanza still with a slim margin advantage of 62-60.
Both teams were fighting for the victory and again the game was tied on 62, 70 and 72 as the end game appeared. A huge downtown treble from Carr brought delight to the travelling supporters but three missed scoring opportunities encouraged the Hoods fans as Rockets were looking tired after their exploits over the 2 weekend games, soon finding themselves 67-70 down.. Could the tired Rockets ignite for the last two minutes. Davis made a great stop and then strove to the other end to slam dunk and see Rockets 4 points with 1 minute 41 seconds remaining. Hoods scored and Coach Keane took a time-out but on the re-start Hoods drove, scored, drew the foul and went into the lead on 77-76 with 21.5 seconds on the clock. Another Keane time-out and plans for the next and probable last offensive with 15.6 left proved to be crucial as the ball was given to Carr who drove to the basket and finished with off the glass to give Rockets the lead. The Hoods time-out and possession that followed was stopped by Rockets who now move onto the National Cup quarter final away to Leopards on Sunday 15th Dec.
Top scorers for Rockets in this breath-taking cup game were A J Carr with 28 pts, Nick Richards with 18 pts, Liam Davis with 14 points but all 9 players were magnificent, even if exhausted.
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