After a prolonged journey troubled by a coach puncture coupled to a late tip off due to a serious injury to a player in the Ladies game that had preceded this Men’s Div.1 game, it took Rockets most of the first half to settle into the powerful performance that they displayed after the break. Without the services of captain Danny Carter, back injury, Rockets determination to avenge the first home league defeat in October by Derby by ten points showed through as they came back from 37-39 adrift at the interval to secure a fine 13 point victory on the road. This maintains Rockets in third place in the league and with leaders and league favourites Solent Kestrels picking up their second defeat either side of the Christmas break, there’s renewed hope for the trailing 3 / 4 teams including Rockets.
Head Coach Alan Keane has never been afraid to release the prodigious talent he has in Rockets academy and with Ronan O’Sullivan still out with a broken hand and Carter missing, James Jolly was included in the team together with 4 other regular academy youngsters and each played key roles. Arinze Emeka-Anyakwo played for 35 minutes and David Chive had 23 minutes too, showing their importance to this still developing team. Trailblazers also showed their desire to do the double over Rockets as they stormed the defensive boards with 19 rebounds compared to an unusually low 11 for the visitors, and were 50% more successful from inside and beyond the arc with their shootingas their leading marksman Malcolm Smith had 15 points and 5 rebounds before the break though Rockets restricted him to just 7 more points and 2 more rebounds in the second half. Derby extended their lead to 44-38 in the opening exchanges after the interval but a 33- 9 Rockets run almost exterminated the fire of the Trailblazers. Trae Pemberton was finding his three point shooting eye early in the game and exploded into it with five big trebles from the start of the third quarter till the final buzzer. However three of these trebles were also buzzer beaters, one from just inside his own half. With A J Carr scoring 13 points in the third period Rockets took off with a 34-14 quarter and a lead of 71-53 as the final stanza arrived.
Derby hit three trebles to try and get back into the contest but Coach Keane had clearly encouraged his players to rise to the boards as Rockets took the second half by 26-18 and the players shooting averages had much improved. They only missed one throw from the penalty stripe out of eleven. Keane was also using all his academy players no doubt thinking ahead of the following days game against south coast rivals and title contenders Worthing Thunderbut with less than 2 minutes remaining another ankle injury to the effervescent Irishman Adrian O’Sullivan dampened Rockets spirits a little as they journeyed home though high with a big victory securing that third league placing.
Rockers were led by double doubles from both their American players as Trae Pemberton had 28 pts., 11 rebounds and 6 assists with A J Carr hitting 26 pts.,and also having 11 rebounds.