Top two meet at Rivermead on Saturday in crunch title game

Reading Rockets (20-3) have a huge weekend in front of them as they face title rivals Team Northumbria (20-3) on Saturday evening at Rivermead Leisure Complex (6pm tip-off) before rounding off the weekend hosting Loughborough Student Riders (12-10) the following day (5pm tip-off). Rockets took their winning streak to an incredible 19 games last weekend as they defeated Worthing Thunder (6-18) on Saturday 110-78 behind Craig Ponder’s 36 points before grinding out a hard fought win away to London Lituanica (9-13) by 86 points to 73 to put the Berkshire outfit level with Saturday’s opponents Team Northumbria. This season’s table toppers were not in action this weekend due to the BUCS tournament but have been at the summit of NBL Division One for most of the campaign and a win for the visitors on Saturday will all but guarantee them league glory. One of Rockets’ three losses came at the hands of Team Northumbria back at the beginning of November by 87 points to 75 and this may have a bearing on the final outcome of the Division One table. If both teams finish with the same record, their head to head results come into play although if Rockets win their remaining three games this will not matter but with the Berkshire outfit finishing their campaign away to Manchester Magic (19-4) who also remain in the mix one game behind this may be a big factor in the final standings.

Rockets Head Coach Manuel Peña Garcés was very pleased to see his team come through a tough weekend with injuries playing a significant part, but his attentions now turn to the next game which he is relishing. Speaking after recording wins 18 and 19 on the bounce and ahead of this weekend’s potential title decider, the Spaniard said,

“We are really happy with last weekend’s two wins because our performances were better and we had to make some adaptions in the game against Lituanica. They did really well stopping us and it was important for us to make some changes which we did with great commitment and showed good character to win the game and that pleases me heading into the final three games of the regular season.”

“This week will be a huge week for us and one we are really excited about but will prepare for as normal. We need to recover some injuries and rest some players whilst making sure we keep working on our defence and our game plan against Northumbria. They have been magnificent this season and Marc (Steutel, Team Northumbria Head Coach) has done a fantastic job with his group and I know they will be thoroughly prepared to face us and will throw everything they have in order to win the game and the league. It promises to be a great advertisement for Division One and we will be working hard this week and on Saturday to try and get the win that we so badly want!”

“Whilst this is the next game and we continue to have a “one game at a time” mentality, after Saturday we will obviously turn our attentions to Sunday’s game against Loughborough as this will be a really important game too. They have done really well in their first season in Division One and have some good talent on their roster so we know this will also be a tough game and one we will need to turn our attentions to quickly after Saturday.”

“We have put ourselves in a great position and I am so proud of my players for everything they are doing and I really hope this weekend we can show what we are about and create a little bit of history in what is an exciting period for the club.”

The major factor heading into this weekend’s final double header of the season will be the injury list that has grown since last week. Along with Joel Keeble (wrist), Fidel Gomez De Enterria Lopez (ankle), and Bikram Rana (ankle), is Under 19 Ibu Jassey Demba who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a broken hand. The 19 year old forward sustained a fracture in a freak accident last Friday and will also be out of the John Madejski Academy’s EABL quarter-final match up with Charnwood College on Wednesday. Division Four captain Tom Goodyear stepped up and made his home debut last weekend and will be keeping his place on the roster for the upcoming double header. Manuel Peña Garcés will also call upon some junior players to bolster his squad as Rockets look to take one step closer to the Division One title and keep their unbeaten streak well and truly alive in what will be their toughest weekend of the 2016/2017 season.

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