Other than Sam Grant who’s slowly recovering, Head Coach Alan Keane had a full squad for the away double header weekend starting with high flying Derby who were on a winning streak of 5-0.
It proved a tough assignment especially when one of the league’s best players, Malcolm Smith ,was in outstanding form as he poured in 33 points though Rockets pair of Liam Davis and Nick Richards had 27 and 25 points respectively as Rockets fought back from a disappointing opening half (38 -51 ) but took the second half 59- 53 though the victory eluded them.
Derby raced into a 7-0 lead before Liam Davis hit back to back scores though Leome Francis and Ben Dixon were called for offensive fouls on the dangerous Smith. Smith hit 18 of Derby’s 30 first quarter points with their Spanish guard helping himself to 8 including a rare 4 point play as he stroked the penalty point having hit a wide treble when being fouled. Davis scored 10 of Rockets 19 points in this period but Rockets’ lead scorer Nick Richards was kept quiet.
The second quarter began with Richards being his usual influential self , hitting 9 personal points and giving assists around the court. Though Rockets lost this period 19-21, there were signs of increased hope for the travelling supporters as Rockets got to within 6 points adrift of Trailblazers but then missed a score and Trailblazers hit a treble as Rockets trailed 38-51 at the interval.
Derby shot out of the blocks on the re-start as they hit 6 unopposed points to find themselves 19 up and even though Pau Mayor hit a treble , Derby replied immediately with one of their own. Richards stroked a treble as did Matias Boho and Mayor went 3 from 3 from the free throw line before Ben Dixon stroked a treble and Rockets were a much improved team chasing Derby though still being edged out by 29-28 in the third quarter and finding themselves 66-80 down.
Richards had hit double figures and Rockets hit 9 more points than in either of the two first quarters.
An 11-5 run at the start of the final period had Rockets within single figures of Derby as Rockets’ twin towers of Davis and Francis went to work inside hitting 19 points between them . Unfortunately Derby’s Bowman hit back to back trebles to give Trailblazers a 95-83 advantage with 4 minutes remaining. A Mayor assist to Francis followed by a drive by the Spaniard drew Rockets close again and they reduced the deficit to just 5 with just over a minute to go and the Derby supporters were nervous but then a slip by Smith was adjudged a foul and Derby stayed ahead but Rockets were playing much better and finished on a high taking the final period 31-24 .
Rockets top scorers were Liam Davis with 27, Nick Richards with 25, Pau Mayor with 18 and Leome Francis with 12.