Hemel Storm vs Reading Rockets – NBL Div 1 Semi Final

American shooting guard Scotty Hendricks personified everything that represents Rockets….sheer effort, heart and determination against all the odds, in this Play-off Championship semi final by insisting on playing having broken his hand just 6 days before. He had to remove both casts before the game started leaving just heavy tape supporting the fracture as the high scoring guard in his best form of the season (as Rockets had won ten games on the trot thanks much to Scotty’s outstanding shooting), knew he could contribute defensively even if not offensively and was determined to do his best to try and secure silverware for Rockets this season. He played twelve of the first twenty minutes till the interval, clearly in pain, and nearly all with his left hand, and right up until the last three minutes before the break ( when he was resting on the bench ), Rockets were within a single point of Storm at 41-42. However a 9-0 Storm run saw Rockets trail by double digits at 41-51 at half time, something from which they just couldn’t recover as sharp shooting Storm just had too much in depth to lose such an advantage.

Sydney Donaldson had an awesome opening quarter as he scored eleven personal points and drew fouls as he drove courageously to the basket. With Rockets two big guys Danny Carter and Tim Gill working hard and keeping them close to Storm, a high scoring first period saw Rockets trail by five at 27-32. Everyone in the packed arena knew this pace just couldn’t be kept up all game. Rockets tally man, Declan Soukup hit a brace of trebles and orchestrated Rockets offensives though the ball did everything but fall Rockets way as it rimmed around or came back of the ring whilst Storm were most effective here. The 41- 51 interval couldn’t come quick enough for the Rockets coaching team, though Hendricks knew his game was effectively done though he did play for three more minutes in the remainder of the game.

Gill scored with a hook shot to reduce Rockets deficit at the start of the third quarter and Ed Potter finished well. When Soukup made a magnificent strip as Storm were about to score, everyone was aware that despite the hand Rockets had been dealt for this semi -final, they were determined to give it their best. Unfortunately when 6’8”Gill was being policed tightly, he turned and pushed Storm’s David Ajumobi ( an ex-Rockets ) in the face and was immediately ejected from the arena, making Rockets goal of reaching the final even tougher. A 27-16 third period saw Storm 78-57 ahead as the final stanza began but under captain Danny Carter, he ensured Rockets played to their utter best representing Rockets and all the travelling supporters, keeping heads high and still playing to win.

Three trebles in the early part of the fourth period by Storm including one on the buzzer gave Storm an unassailable lead though Ali Sbai flew through the air to make a huge rejection and Charles Asquith Davis came off the bench to hit a treble. Jonny Foulds hit a pair of them too as Rockets stalwarts Carter, Donaldson and Soukup were brought off to standing ovations from the Rockets fans who recognised this was just a challenge too great without both Americans.

A season that saw Rockets finish third and into the Play-off championship semi- final looked impossible at Christmas but they showed class and determination and, if not for that broken hand, who knows what may have happened.

Top scorers for Rockets were Danny Carter with 17 pts.,8 rebounds and 2 assists with Sydney Donaldson having 14 pts.,, taking down 4 rebounds and having 4 assists and Tim Gill 12 pts. Declan Soukup has 7 assists to add to his 9 pts.

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Hemel Storm vs Reading Rockets

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Hemel Storm vs Reading Rockets

Despite three of Rockets Academy players having just stepped off a plane following an elite sport and educational 2 weeks in Spain, coupled to the departure of Daniel Arcau, Rockets weren’t troubled as they stormed Sportspace in Hemel breezing into a 9 point opening period lead that they slowly increased to the end as they took a vital win securing a quarter final against Kent Crusaders in Canterbury on Sun 20th Nov.

American point guard Craig Ponder was again the architect for Rockets as he controlled the play, scored at crucial times and made assists for his teammates to finish. However power forward Chris Hooper again top scored as he made a real nuisance of himself for Hemel, scoring well inside, drawing fouls and taking down vital boards. Hemel opened the scoring before a Hooper slam soon followed by the first of shooting guard Juan Valerio’s four trebles. When Ponder drained another treble and Ali Sbai followed suit, Rockets had their first double digit advantage at 25-15 though the quarter finished 27-18 in Rockets favour.

The second period was a tighter affair as Storm hit three trebles but with big Hooper rejection coupled to 18 yo Bulgarian Paulin Jardim hitting his first treble of the season and captain Danny Carter wanting to join the party, Rockets edged this quarter 21-19 to go to the interval ahead by 48-37.

A lower scoring quarter was again edged by Rockets 17-15 as they increased their advantage thanks mainly to Valerio scoring a brace of trebles and Hooper being dominant around the boards adding the odd slam dunk into his scoring profile. Joel Keeble hit a long shot and 18 year old Sbai went coast to coast to score as Rockets opened up a 20 point lead at 62-42. Hemel stroked a pair of trebles and finished with a 10-0 run but Rockets had the last possession as Ponder sent a great pass to Valerio who didn’t disappoint with a superb buzzer beating treble and extending Rockets’ advantage to 13 points at 65-52.

Valerio scored first for Rockets with a finger roll before Ponder went coast to coast and Valerio made a wide treble as the Storm was weathered. Ibu Jassey Demba was fouled as he leapt to dunk and hit one from two from the line as Keeble worked tirelessly on the boards at both ends and just missed out on a fine finish when a wide treble came back off the ring. A Sbai pull up jump shot saw Rockets to a 84-67 victory and a chance to pursue the National Cup dream again.

Top scorers for Rockets were Chris Hooper with 20 pts., and both Juan Valerio and Craig Ponder with 18 pts., apiece. Rockets now travel up north for a weekend pair of games in Newcastle against Northumbria on Saturday night and then back to Bradford on Sunday afternoon in undoubtedly Rockets hardest games to date.

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Hemel Storm vs Reading Rockets

In their first league game of the new season, Rockets began it with a resounding 19 point win against a team that beat them on three occasions last season. Rockets began with an intensity and quality finishing that brings encouragement for the season ahead though slack defensive work in the second quarter saw Storm think they might continue where they left off just 5 months ago.

Captain Danny Carter led by example with the irrepressible American Chris Hooper continuing with his 20+ points per game record to date. With Craig Ponder asserting himself as the orchestrator of virtually all Rockets key offences, Joel Keeble showing the shooting prowess we know he possesses and Juan Valerio stroking five trebles, this was an excellent performance all round, pleasing the travelling fans and the coaching team led by Manuel Pena Garces.

The game began with a 30 point haul for Rockets in the opening period including five trebles thanks to Carter ( 2), Valerio (2) and Ponder including a 12-0 run. Hooper threw a pair of cross court passes to the open Valerio to start his personal 17 point tally while Ponder aced an arrow pass to Hooper to finish with a lay-up before hitting a buzzer beating treble to give Rockets a 30-18 lead.

This 12 point advantage was soon reduced as Storm peppered the Rockets goal with three trebles to get within 3 points of Rockets at 36-33. Despite a Rockets time-out it was Storm who then took the lead but after the scores were level on 41, Rockets edged ahead to lead 48-44 at the interval and never looked really threatened in the second half of the game. The 4 point advantage was opened to 8 and then 13 points midway through quarter three by 63-50, a double digit lead they were never to surrender as they kept the pressure up defensively and finished well offensively as five of the team hit double figures and the whole team did their roles well on the court. Despite Storm scoring a treble late in the period the 71-56 score truly reflected Rockets dominance in the quarter which they took 23-12.

Another high scoring fourth period of 27 points saw Rockets close in on a 100 point total but it was not meant to be as they comforted themselves with undoubtedly their best team performance to date. Dani Arcau hit his first treble for Rockets in this quarter as 7 of Rockets team scored. The diminutive Ponder had masterminded the on court and had the audacity to finish a fine display with a block. Carter sealed the game from the free throw line but a jubilant Rockets walked off court very satisfied though recognising there’s still much work to be done even though there was a glimmer of light of some potential for this young, new and exciting team.

Top scorers for Rockets were Chris Hooper with 23 pts., Craig Ponder with 21 pts., Juan Valerio with 17 pts., Danny Carter with 16 pts., and Joel Keeble with 11 pts.

Rockets now travel to Wales on Thursday evening when they play Cardiff in the National Cup third round before returning to Bohunt School in Arborfield on Saturday when they entertain Derby Trailblazers at 6 pm, again in the league. For tickets and more information on the Rockets, please go to their website www.readingrockets.co.uk

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Hemel Storm vs Team Northumbria

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