With the addition of 3 BBL professional players picked up when London City Capitals went out of business at the end of January, Rockets were only too well prepared for a very different game with Leopards whom they’d beaten in 3 earlier games this season. Elvisi Dusha and Orlan Jackman were awesome throughout the game as Dusha stroked 6 trebles in his games top scorer 34 points whilst Jackman had a double double with 26 points and 12 rebounds though Rockets led the stats in points from turnovers, points in the paint, second chance points and fast break points.
Rockets twin tower offence of Liam Davis and Leome Francis troubled Leopards from tip to buzzer with returning Ed Potter having a great second quarter to keep Rockets within a score at the interval. After an opening period when Nick Richards and Pau Mayor hit trebles, Rockets found themselves adrift by a single point at 20-21 before Potter scored 4 times under the basket as he took down offensive rebounds to see Rockets just 42 – 44 down at the interval after Dusha banked trebles with his first shot of the second quarter and again with a heart wrenching buzzer beating one at the end of the period.
Seven Rockets players scored in the third quarter as Head Coach Alan Keane tried all combinations to stop Leopards sharp shooters whilst also finishing better themselves but Rockets found themselves 5 points adrift for most of this third period before a Leome Francis 3 point play and a buzzer beating Mayor treble saw the deficit exactly the same at 2 down at 62 – 64 as the fourth quarter beckoned.
Rockets were sharply out of the blocks at the start of the final stanza as Francis finished a Rockets fast break to tie the game on 64 with awesome American guard Nick Richards tying it again on 66and 68 before Francis gave Rockets the slenderest of leads at 70 – 69. A Chive steal and finish was quickly followed by a Chive treble and Rockets had opened up a 78 -71 advantage causing Leopards to take a time out with just over 6 minutes of normal game time remaining. Despite Richards efforts a brace of trebles saw Rockets lead drop to just 2 points at 80-78 midway through the quarter but again Potter finished inside . With 2 minutes and 45 seconds left Rockets called a time-out and Matias Boho hit his first 2 points of the game seeing Rockets 3 up with 1 minute 21 to go. Up again comes Dusha with a treble to tie the game on 86 and despite both teams having time and opportunity to secure the win, neither team took them so the first overtime this season lay ahead.
Despite Leopards having possession it was Richards who scored first for Rockets before making a steal scoring and drawing the foul as Rockets enjoyed a 5 point lead at 91 -86 with 2 minutes 44 seconds left on the clock. However a 11-0 finish including a pair of trademark trebles form Leopards gave them the victory in a most entertaining and competitive game which sees Rockets in sixth place in the league with just 5 league games remaining.
Top scorers for Rockets were Nick Richards with 28 pts., 7 rebounds, 7 assists and 2 steals as Leome Francis had a double double with 18 pts., and 12 rebounds with Ed Potter doing similar with 14 pts and 10 rebounds and Liam Davis making it three Rockets players with double doubles as he hit 10 pts and took down 11 rebounds .
Having lost to the league champions elect in the National Cup Final 4 weeks earlier, Rockets knew what a talented team would take to the Rivermead court, especially as since that date Kestrels had added another excellent recruit in the form of TrayVonn Wright to their roster. Could Rockets match their south coast rivals now they had both Spaniards returning to the court ?
Truth is that this Solent team is improving with and in each competition and having become the first team from Div.1 to secure a BBL Trophy Cup Final spot having overwhelmed Bristol Flyers at Southampton by 36 pts before losing by ten away, the Kestrels appear to be going from strength to strength with no team looking forward to meeting them in the Championship Play-offs next month.
Rockets opened the scoring as Pau Mayor finished with a floater though Solent his three consecutive goals to edge ahead. The outstanding Nick Richards drove for the first of his scores before Liam Davis struck Rockets first treble to regain the lead at 7-6 though that was the last time the Berkshire outfit led despite the valiant efforts of Richards who was the games’ top scorer with 27 points and a subsequent winner of the Nando’s Impact Player of the Game. The game was being played at a fast pace with clinical finishing from Solent who were between 55 and 72% across all scoring stats. Richards stroked a brace of trebles to keep Rockets in touch at the end of the first period though adrift 21-29 but then Kestrels had a 32-15 second quarter to go the locker room 61-36 ahead after commanding the boards and hitting three more trebles as they took control of the game.
Head Coach Alan Keane used the fifteen minute break to correct and re-direct his chargers with Leome Francis scoring six points and competing on the boards as the returning Spaniard Matias Boho stroked a treble but Solent again took the quarter 26-16 with a buzzer beating treble to lead 87-52.
In line with Rockets mantra of giving the young academy guys plenty of court time, it was good to see them contributing with scores and assists against such quality opposition . Rockets scored 50% of their points in the final period moving from 52 to 78 as Mayor and Davis hit 8 points each though Solent hit another 4 trebles to secure another victory and extend their unbeaten run in this Division back to Feb 2019, some awesome record. The final score was 78-110 with Rockets top scorers being Nick Richards with 27 pts., 5 rebounds and a block as Liam Davis hit 15 pts., and took down 6 rebounds and Leome Francis had 11 pts., and took down 8 rebounds. Pau Mayor had 10 pts.,, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
When you join a new club you hope to make an impression early. Well Leome Francis certainly did that at Rivermead on Sunday afternoon as he had a double double with 28 pts and 17 rebounds bringing much acknowledgement from his team mates, his Head Coach and the Rockets supporters alike. The game began with Francis on the bench having only had 2 training sessions since his transfer from Northampton Titans in mid- week but four minutes into the game Coach Keane released the 6’5” forward , who has been recruited to help fill the vacancy left by A J Carr’s season long broken hand., onto the court to tumultuous applause….and he didn’t disappoint as he led all Rockets players with 8 personal points in the opening quarter as well as dominating the boards. Liam Davis had scored Rockets first points with a floater before David Chive stroked a treble and Nick Richards hit both penalty shots as he was fouled as he drove to score. The returning Aussie Ben Dixon gave the first of his seven assists to Francis to score before the forward spun and finished giving Rockets a single point lead at 13—12. A crucial Richards block interrupted the three point shooting of the visitors who had tied the scores on 17, 20 and 23 as they hit four trebles in the opening period and edged ahead 24-23.
Liverpool extended their advantage as they scored the opening five points inside the opening 90 seconds of quarter two to lead 29-23, much to the annoyance of Coach Keane. Francis stopped the rot and Richards again scored with a pair of free throws before Francis scored inside and then Liam Davis was also secure from the penalty stripe as he took down an offensive rebound, tying the scores on 31. Richards stole the ball and sent an assist to Davis to slam dunk before Spanish guard Pau Mayor scored and Richards sent an assist to Francis and eased Rockets ahead 38-32 with an 11-3 run, causing Liverpool to call a time -out. In their next 2 possessions the visitors stroked a brace of trebles , so much a part of their armoury and with two brothers Reiss and Ellis Haggith. Davis scored well inside and drew the foul making it a 3 point play moments before Dixon gave an assist for Richards to finish exquisitely with a finger roll and seeing the hosts in the locker room with a 48-43 lead.
Rockets opened the scoring at the start of the third period as the two big men imposed themselves as Francis took down an offensive rebound and gave an assist to Davis to score with his trademark slam dunk . Dixon drove and scored before a 3 man fast break was finished with a Davis slam. Rockets defence was improving as Richards made a block and Francis a stop as Rockets enjoyed a 56-47 lead . A Francis base line drive and score was followed by a spin and score but the Liverpool sharp shooters struck again with a treble to stay 5-6 points adrift throughout the quarter which finished 64-59 in Rockets favour.
Rockets powered in 32 points in this final stanza as Richards helped himself to 13 points and the twin big men attackers hit 11 between them. A pair of Davis jump shots got Rockets up and running before Dixon waited for the fast approaching Richards to rise high, score and hit the penalty shot as he was fouled in scoring. Richards gave an assist to Chive who followed up that score with a pull up jump shot too. Francis gave an assist to Richards who then made a pair of audacious steals and finishes to see Rockets with a double digit lead of 88-78. Mayor scored with a lay-up before Francis finished his cameo debut with a brace of offensive rebounds and scores. Needless to say he was the Nando’s Impact Player of the Game .
With Rockets facing a mid-week game at Barking Abbey on Tuesday evening, Head Coach Alan Keane is hoping that Matias Boho will be fit .
Top scorers for Rockets were Leome Francis with 28 pts, 17 rebounds whilst also drawing 7 fouls. Nick Richards hit 23 pts, made 6 steals and gave 4 assists as Liam Davis hit 21 pts, and took down 7 rebounds. David Chive was Rockets other player finishing with 11 pts, as the academy players also took down 4 rebounds.
Rockets reached their first final in 4 years after reaching the Div.1 Play-off championship and National Trophy semi-finals in 2017/18 and 2018/19 respectively.
Despite being without the services of Sam Grant ( long term back injury) coupled to the absence of Rockets Australian guard Ben Dixon, (back home at his brother’s wedding) , Rockets eased themselves into the final with speed of transition causing Myerscough to turn the ball over too much and Rockets capitalising with 35 points from this source alone. With a comfortable lead in the initial three periods, Coach Keane gave his 6 academy players much court time in the final quarter as they gain experience for the final on Sun 2nd Feb at Essex University with a 3.30 pm tip. Rockets couldn’t complete the transfer of their new recruit before the game but he’ll be registered for next week’s Sunday Rivermead game against Liverpool. Which tips at 3.30 pm.
Liam Davis scored Rockets first points with a left handed hook before Pau Mayor finished with a lay-up . Nick Richards began his usual up beat tempo with a fine drive and score, also drawing the foul and making it a 3 point play. Matias Boho took an assist from Richards to stroke a treble from the top of the key and see Rockets enjoy a lead of 16-8 before Coach Keane introduced Ross Stepney and Asher Ndal onto court and seeing Rockets go to the first break with a 22-16 advantage.
Richards and Ndah were the high personal points contributors of the second period with 8 and 7 points respectively with 17 yo Ndah hitting an impressive treble and making another three point play as he was fouled in scoring and then hit the penalty shot too. Rockets had quickly moved to a 36-18 lead before Richards finished with a tip in after rising high and mighty above the opposition. Another academy player, Kivuvu Live, made his debut appearance at Rivermead and soon hit a jump shot to score . Rockets captain, Ed Potter, was leading by example by taking a charge but Rockets thirteen steals showed the main difference between the teams at the interval with Rockets 46-28 ahead.
Myerscough scored first after Rockets missed on their opening possession but it was back to normal service as Richards made yet another steal and then sent an assist to Boho to score. Davis hit a pair from the free throw line as Rockets reached 50 points with a 20 point lead. Mayor and Richards hit trebles whilst Potter worked tirelessly under the basket to score seven personal points as Rockets went into the final quarter 65 – 37 ahead.
Again Myerscough scored first and had a 7-3 run interrupted only as David Chive banked a treble. Kivuvu played well on his debut and hit six more points in this quarter though Myerscough took the opportunity as Coach Keane rested all his senior players and took the final quarter 21-12 . A Kivuvu dish to Chive was one of the highlights of this period as the future looks promising for Rockets academy players as they are such an integral part of Rockets Seniors and seek to further develop themselves at the highest level in English basketball. The final score was 77 -58 though the primary goal was a fine victory and cup final place, something the team delivered and deserved.
Top scorers for Rockets were Nick Richards with 16 pts, 6 assists and 4 steals as Matias Boho hit 13 pts, took down 5 rebounds and made 3 steals. Captain Ed Potter was also in double figures as he hit 10 pts and took down 7 rebounds though watching the development of the academy players remains a great joy for the Rockets leadership team and the supporters.