Essex + Herts Leopards 82-98 Reading Rockets
After an outstanding league win the previous evening to second placed Worthing Thunder, moving Rockets into joint second themselves, Head Coach Alan Keane needed to ensure this quarter final was not an ‘ after the Lord Mayor’s show’ performance.
Leopards leapt out of the box with a brisk 8-2 opening run before Rockets outstanding threesome from the night before imposed themselves with Carr making a spin move, Nick Richards giving an assist for Liam Davis to slam before the power forward made a big block and went the length of the court to drive but was fouled so hit a pair of free throws seeing Rockets on a 8-0 run and the lead at 10-8. The scores remained tied on 12 and 14 but five quick Leopards points including a treble eased them ahead, a lead they kept to the end of the quarter at 21-18 .
A 26-18 second period for Rockets was lit by 18 yo David Chive as he hit nine personal points coupled to A J Carr stroking his first treble of the game. From 20-27 adrift Rockets came back to level on 29 before Nick Richards took an offensive rebound, scored and drew the foul . A Leopards treble was matched by Rockets and the game tied again on 37 before a Richards storm of six lightning quick pints, a Matias Boho block and a Pau Mayor penalty score saw Rockets into the locker room with a 44-39 lead. The interval stats sheet showed both teams were evenly matched on virtually everything from points in the paint, points from turnovers, fast break points , biggest scoring runs and biggest lead so would Rockets suffer from the double header weekend as the third period beckoned with Rockets having a slender 44-39 lead.
Not at all. In fact it was a game changing quarter as Rockets hit 39 points with Richards scoring thirteen, Davis eleven and Mayor eight as they took the game by the scruff of the neck and launched themselves towards the semi final with a 83-60 advantage. Carr sent an arrow pass to 17 yo Asher Ndah to score and moments later Ndah made a stop. Carr stroked a treble and then in the next offence took down an offensive rebound and gave Davis a three point play as he was fouled when scoring. Rockets were flying high and some great team play saw Richards hit a treble from the top of the key to lead 59-43 mid way through the quarter. Leopards stroked four trebles to stay in contention but the mercurial American Richards was a joy to behold as he hit a pull up jump shot and then made a characteristic steal and finish. Mayor did likewise and closed Rockets scoring for the period which they won 39-21.
With such an advantage you may have thought Rockets might have stepped off the gas but no chance as Rockets defence was prominent from the start of this quarter causing Leopards into a 24 second violation . Coach Keane gave his academy players Ndah, Chive and David Obediah more court time with Obediah scoring with a jump shot. Leopards hit a brace of trebles to encourage the hosts supporters but Rockets eased into the semi-final stage with a 98-82 victory.
Top scorers for Rockets were Nick Richards with 33 pts, 7 rebounds , 4 assists and a huge 6 steals. Liam Daviis had another double double with 19 pts and 10 rebounds. A J Carr hit 16 pts, took down 7 rebounds and made 6 assists with Pau Mayor now recovered from his leg and knee injury and scoring 11 pts and taking down 5 rebounds.
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