Following their superb win on Saturday night against second placed Derby Trailblazers, Rockets travelled north to take on the newly crowned champions and came away with a glorious victory that secures third spot in the league and, but for a few more points win the night before, would have meant they captured the league runners-up place. Having suffered a pair of single and two point losses the previous week, Rockets gave themselves what everyone else thought was an impossible task by beating both Derby and Manchester who had sat at the top of the table for months with Magic having also won the Trophy and the Cup. But that’s exactly what they did and in style.
Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces was pleased to have a fully fit team though short of the juniors who were away in France in an eight team tournament. Magic opened the scoring with a couple of buckets before Tony Robinson, playing with an injured eye cut in the previous night’s game, and Danny Carter with a treble announced Rockets’ intention on fighting for the vital win against a team who had only lost two games all season. D’Montre Edwards imposed himself on the game with a lay-up and finger rolls as Rockets went on a 9-0 run. However Magic aren’t champions without having talent and team spirit and despite Jordan Nicholls stroking a Rockets treble, Magic went on a 11-0 run to finish the initial period 21-20 ahead.
Magic continued their fine play as they stretched their lead to double figures at 32-22 but another brace of Nicholls trebles stopped Magic in their tracks. A penetrative bounce pass from Carter to Robinson to score coupled to a pair of assists from Robinson to Nicholls and an Edwards finger roll saw Rockets just a couple of points in arrears as the interval beckoned. They appeared to have stopped the last Magic offence but a fortunate deflection still saw Magic have the advantage at 40-37 . Both teams had had ten point leads with Magic’s biggest scoring run of eleven just two points ahead of Rockets’ best at nine points. Even at the end of the game these stats were to remain the best of the game showing what a tight affair this game was.
Magic scored off their possession but Robinson scored from way down town and Carter hit a pair of free throws to draw the teams level on 42 each. Magic went on a 6-0 run but Wayne Yeboah stopped that run from the penalty stripe but Carter was called for his third foul so had to be rested. A David Ajumobi spin and score with Edwards secure with a brace of free throws saw Rockets stay in touch even if four points adrift with three minutes of the penultimate quarter remaining until Magic hit four more points. A typical Yeboah offensive rebound and score complemented by a dish from Ajumobi to Yeboah to score again and Fraser Glass wide treble gave Rockets the impetus though still 59-61 behind at the start of the final period.
This was changed into a single point lead as Edwards hit a treble before he drove to finish again and have Rockets enjoy a 64-61 momentary lead as Magic made a three point play to draw the teams level on 64, a fate that was accomplished on 66, 68,70 and 75 as both teams were giving their all in the last league game of the season. An Ajumobi tip in and a classic Robinson spin coupled to a big defensive Edwards rebound encouraged Rockets but a slip on the floor saw Magic hit a treble. Nicholls responded with another of his own trebles moments later as with just three and a half minutes remaining the teams were tied on 75 each. Who would buckle under the pressure ? Who could hold their own form the penalty stripe as both teams were in foul trouble ? Well Rockets captain Danny Carter led from the front as he hit both penalty shots, stroked a treble and then made a steal to score seven personal points during this end game scenario. Robinson was happy to have and keep the ball till he was fouled and again he was sure from the line but all the team played their part in a significant victory – Magic 83 Rockets 89 – that see Rockets secure third place in the league and a home tie against erstwhile rivals Essex Leopards who have beaten Rockets just ten days ago in Reading so a titanic affair awaits at Rivermead at 5 pm next Sunday 3rd April.
Top scorers for Rockets were D’Montre Edwards with 21 points and 7 rebounds (and a field goal percentage of 90% !!); Jordan Nicholls with 16 points, including four trebles, Tony Robinson with 16 points, three assists; Danny Carter with 15 points and three steals; Wayne Yeboah with 9 points and 8 rebounds and David Ajumobi with 9 points and four assists .