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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