Essex & Herts Leopards vs Reading Rockets

Though not having had the best of starts to the season Leopards are much changed now and have further players returning soon, hence Head Coach Alan Keane quite properly ignored the league position of his opposition and concentrated on staying in joint second place in the league.

With Sam Grant out injured and David Chive on his sick bed, it was a reduced team that set off for Oaklands College the new venue for Rockets’ hosts. A 7-2 opening blitz by Leopards was quickly quelled by A J Carr and Liam Davis as Rockets drew level on 9, 11 and 13 points midway through the quarter. Leopards’ biggest threat was Hafeez Abdul who stroked back to back trebles to ease Leopards ahead by 6 points. Rockets missed a lay up and a slam though a late Matias Boho score saw Rockets down 17-22 at the first break.

Nick Richards opened his personal account with a fine spin move followed by a jump shot and then Boho hit both penalty shots. When Pau Mayor drove and finished, Rockets found themselves ahead by 25-24 as Ed Potter was his usual stern defender and Boho had a very effective offensive period as he scored 8 points including a key treble. Having been called for a brace of early fouls A J Carr had had to sit out virtually all this quarter and most of the opening period but Rockets appeared ready to go to the interval with a 37-34 advantage till the officials called a foul and Leopards hit three form three from the line to tie the scores again, on 37 each as the buzzer sounded with Abdul leading all scorers with 21 of Leopards’ 37 points.

Rockets would need to do a much better job on him in the next two quarters if they wanted to stay in league contention…..and how well they did that as Abdul only scored 6 more points in the remainder of the game. Rockets built from that improved defence and took the third quarter 25-16 to enjoy a little breathing space as 7 of Rockets 9 players scored. Carr was back on court and Mayor hit a treble before he was side-lined with a thigh injury. Leopards smelled an opportunity and levelled on 51 and 53 but a Davis block and a sweet treble from the Academy student Asher Ndah at the very end of the quarter gave Rockets a 62-53 lead.

Leopards hit another treble to start the last quarter whilst Rockets were called for three fouls within 2 minutes of the start of the final period putting added pressure on the Rockets’ players. Potter made a big block and Davis took down a key defensive rebound as Rockets maintained their 9 point advantage at 65-56. But the foul count was 5-1 against Rockets within 3.09 of the quarter start meaning Boho was fouled out . A Leopards treble was matched by a Carr treble but he was called for his fourth and fifth excluding fouls with Mayor having to limp back on court to help defend the lead and ensure Rockets took the victory. Davis made a pair of big stops and Potter was indestructible in the key as he fought for every ball taking down 6 defensive rebounds whilst also being a thorn in Leopards’ side as he also drew fouls including one as he drove to score on the buzzer. Rockets played a superb end game to take the vital win by 81-67.

Top scorers for Rockets were A J Carr with 16 points and 6 rebounds; Nick Richards with 14 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals as Matias Boho also hit 14 points, took down 8 rebounds and made 3 assists as Liam Davis finished with yet another double double of 13 points and 13 rebounds.

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Essex Leopards vs Reading Rockets

In yet another double header away from home, Rockets had a very flat performance from tip to buzzer not reaching anything like their potential as they slumped to defeat. Leopards were on outstanding shooting form which could not be matched by any of the Rockets guards. Three trebles in the opening quarter and a brace in the second period  laid down the gauntlet for Rockets who could only hit 1 from 8 by the interval and though A J Carr worked hard inside, Rockets trailed 8-20 and then 29-36 by the break.

An O’Sullivan drive and score followed by a Trae Pemberton  trademark treble got Rockets to within 4 points early in the third quarter and up stepped captain Danny Carter with 11 personal points but 5 more Leopards trebles blitzed Rockets who found themselves further adrift at 47-64 down as the final stanza appeared.

Carter, Pemberton and Carr fought to reduce the deficit but Leopards were comfortable and making good team plays to find the open man to hit good shots and keep their double digit advantage right through to the end and keep up their hopes of topping the pool table in early January and secure a semi-final place and home draw at the end of that month.

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Essex Leopards vs Reading Rockets

Essex Leopards 73 v 90 Reading Rockets

After a tortuous journey to Brentwood in the Friday evening and international football traffic, Rockets were slow out of the blocks and Leopards made hay stroking three trebles in an opening quarter that saw the Essex side lead by 28-16. Rockets most effective offensive threesome of Craig Ponder, Chris Hooper and captain Danny Carter kept Rockets in touch as University student Paulin Jardim and Academy star Ibu Demba Jassey opened their personal accounts.

Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces refocused his team and upped the tempo as Rockets young side stole the ball, fought tenaciously for it and dived on the floor to gain possession, much to the delight of the travelling supporters and the coaching team. A 10-0 run brought Rockets very close and within another couple of stops and solid offences, Rockets edged ahead at 33-32. Leopards responded as they wanted to take an important win and despite a pair of Ali Sbai trebles, 10 and 8 points respectively from Ponder and Hooper, Leopards held a single point advantage at the interval at 43-42.

Ponder had begun to run the show for Rockets and a further 20 points in the second half confirmed his influence on the game. He sprayed assists to his colleagues, drove determinedly drawing fouls and scored through the eye of a needle on more than one occasion whilst also finding his treble distance shooting. A nip and tuck start to the third period saw Rockets still adrift by three to five points with less than three minutes to go to the final quarter at 53-58. However an 11-0 run and stout defence turned the tables in Rockets favour as they took a 64-58 advantage highlighted by an end of quarter buzzer beating huge treble by Ponder ensuring the whole team, bench, coaching team and supporters rose to their feet to applaud the young American. Only Ponder, Hooper and Carter had scored in this quarter but Fidel Gomez was big in defence and a brace of Sbai stops much helped the team.

More Gomez defence, supported by Jardim and assists from Sbai helped Ponder and Carter stroke trebles, the latter of which opened up a double digit lead that was the beginning of a strong finish by Rockets. Hooper continued to work tirelessly inside tormenting the Leopards defence and as Rockets took the last period 26-15, they had kept the Essex side to just 15 points in each of the last three quarters whilst amassing some 74 points themselves.

Top scorers were Craig Ponder with 34 points, Chris Hooper with 27 points, and Danny Carter with 17 points. Rockets now have a double header weekend to look forward to with a home fixture at Bohunt School on Saturday against Leicester Warriors and then an away trip in the quarter final of the National Cup against Kent Crusaders on Sunday, tipping at 6 pm and 2 pm respectively.

 

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Essex Leopards vs Reading Rockets

In a pulsating Trophy pool game at Brentwood tonight, Rockets had their second overtime game of the season and edged out Essex Leopards 90 – 82.
With just 3.5 seconds of normal time remaining, Rockets found themselves 3 down when a magnificent spin and treble from ex Leopards player David Ajumobi swished to put the scores level at 70 before the first of two overtime periods.

Top scorers for Rockets were D’Montre Edwards 28, Danny Carter 17, Wayne Yeboah and Joel Keeble 12, with David Ajumobi on 11.

Full report to follow….

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