In a titanic battle where a single point kept the teams apart until the interval, Magic opened up a double digit lead in the third leaving it all for Rockets to do in the fourth.
They came perilously close to achieving the win by clawing back the deficit to 88-89 with just 31.9secs left but a Magic score and a Rockets miss saw Magic at the free throw line to take the victory by just 5 points at 93-88.
Rockets captain Danny Carter returned as a starter and dished an assist to Scotty Hendricks who hit a treble. Ali Sbai and Declan Soukup did likewise but Magic stroked four of their own to highlight the evenness of these two teams. Tim Gill again showed his value to Rockets as he worked tirelessly around both baskets taking down rebounds and finishing well in the paint. Jonny Foulds took the first of two charges as he stood defiant as Magic strove to the ring and Manchester returnee Ed scored from his own rebound as Rockets stayed a single point adrift at 27-28 at the first break.
Magic were quick off the mark in period two and opened up a 6 point advantage before Carter pulled up for a score and Hendricks drained a treble though he was called for a foul as he scored. Sydney Donaldson demonstrated his various skills as he made three assists and opened his personal tally with an offensive rebound score coupled to a base line drive finish. Hendricks hit another treble to see Rockets still very much in contention at 41-43 but a mistake by Rockets was severely punished by a Magic alley hoop and despite 4 attempts in the last 18 seconds from one play, Rockets went to the locker room 48-51.
A 10-5 opening by Manchester saw them lead by 8 points early in the third quarter but a defensive rebound and coast to coast score by Donaldson lifted Rockets spirits. A Gill dish to Sbai to hit a treble closed the gap but Magic were relentless in their offence and soon were a double digit ahead at 72-62. Exchange of baskets towards the end of the third period still left Rockets with a mountain to climb at 68-78 down as the final quarter beckoned.
A 7-0 run by Rockets caused Magic to call an early time out and Magic hit a treble to ease ahead by six. Donaldson drove and hit both resultant free throws having taken a steal and scored moments earlier. Gill continued to keep Rockets close at three down midway through the final period at 80-83. Magic were in team foul trouble but unfortunately Rockets couldn’t capitalise on it as they struggled from the free throw line, most unusual for the Berkshire outfit. This proved ultimately to be their Achilles heel as despite getting to just a single point adrift with 31.9 secs remaining Magic hit a wide jump shot and a pair of free throws to secure the win by 93-88.
Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces was most disappointed with giving up so many points after his team’s preparations and has vowed to try and put that right before Bradford Dragons come to Rivermead on Sun 12th November tipping at 5 pm.
Top scorers for Rockets were Tim Gill with an excellent performance and 26 points and 13 rebounds, Sydney Donaldson with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal with Scotty Hendricks hitting 13 points, and Danny Carter with 10 points and 7 rebounds.