Rockets scored their highest ever first half points in their 20 season history against bottom of the league Warriors this afternoon and in so doing extended their unbeaten run to fourteen games, securing second place in the league spot too. ( See league table attached ).
With Warriors having led Solent Kestrels with less than four minutes to go the previous night, Rockets were in no mood to relinquish their winning streak to the winless London outfit. Juan Valerio hit the first of his three trebles in the opening quarter within four seconds of the game start whilst Craig Ponder and Ali Sbai each hit a brace as Rockets blitzed the first period by 33-19. Sbai also went coast to coast and Ponder threw a glorious cross court pass to Sbai to stroke a treble. Danny Carter sent the first of his assists to Ponder before scoring from his own rebound and then dishing the ball to Ponder and Sbai in open space to add to Rockets total. Rockets had successfully hit seven trebles in the quarter with a 66% conversion rate and were on fire.
Rockets kept up the relentless speed and movement as the second quarter began with Chris Hooper scoring with a slam and a trademark spin move. At just 5’2” Bikram Rana is usually the smallest player on the court but the Academy student stroked a treble of threes in just six minutes with Paulin Jardim dishing one great assist to him and Carter another. Carter obliged Sbai with a treble and then Jardim saw Carter open and sent a glorious assist to him to add to Warriors woes. Bikram Rana then took a courageous charge and Sbai hustled on the floor to gain possession for Rockets off which Fidel Gomez finished off the glass as Rockets took their record breaking opening half score to 62 points whilst keeping Warriors to just 27 pts.
Though it would have been difficult to lose the game from this position unless Rockets capitulated, Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces knew no team lies down and having had a fifteen minute break for the acting coach to re-energise his troops and send them into battle, Pena Garces was right to be concerned as Warriors took the third period 26-16 as Rockets slowed the pace, made many mistakes, took poor shots and lost concentration. A 10-2 Warriors end of quarter run saw Warriors close the gap from 76-43 with less than four minutes left in the period, finish 78-53 having eaten into Rockets 35 point half time lead.
Craig Ponder needed to settle the team and personally contributed nine of the seventeen points Rockets scored in the final stanza. Hooper also rose to the challenge scoring off spin moves and a drive as five Rockets players ended up with double digit scores and Bikram Rana hit nine points as Rockets closed out the game at 95-77. Pena Garces would have been happy with the offensive plays but frustrated by the lack of concentration when well ahead. He knows his team has a tough last eight games as they seek to take the league title.
Rockets now prepare for a double header weekend starting with an away fixture in Leicester on Saturday before entertaining National Cup finalists London Lituanica at Rivermead at 5 pm on Sunday.