Loughborough Riders 75 v 68 Reading Rockets
Rockets lost out away in the Play-off Championship as sharp shooting Riders capitalised from turn-overs and the free throw line, to end Rockets season earlier than they hoped. This was destined to be a tough game without the injury to Jaz Bains making him unavailable but Rockets hit the University court running as O’Showen Williams stroked an early treble , Sam Toluwase made a hook score and Leome Francis worked inside to finish. When Ben Dixon took a charge and Reis Pinnock made a block, the two big power forwards Francis and Toluwase gave Rockets a 13 -6 early advantage causing Riders to take a time -out. This didn’t stop Rockets as Pinnock hit four quick points with a floater and drive before defending well to deflect a Riders pass out of play and stop them scoring. Developing young power forward Kivuvu Live joined the party as he scored from an offensive rebound giving Rockets a 19-10 first quarter lead.
Riders responded with 6 quick points against Chuck Duru’s score before Toluwase hit a mid-range shot. However Rockets were running up the personal fouls from which Riders benefitted with a three from three and then hit three more trebles to gain the initiative before the interval. Duru made another block and Williams drove to score though it was obvious he wasn’t himself, the team only finding out afterwards of the tragic death of a friend back home in America. 35-38 was a true reflection at the interval of how competitive the game had been and was to remain till the final buzzer.
Nearly all Rockets best work was being done inside as both power forwards caused major concerns for Riders but unfortunately Riders guards were much more influential than Rockets guards though Francis got Rockets off to a great start to quarter three with a drive and a hook as Rockets took the lead again. For many minutes the lead swapped with every score but an 8-0 Riders run gave them the initiative and a 56-45 advantage. Duru stopped the rot and Dixon sent an assist to Francis to finish but being in team foul trouble saw Riders open up a 62-49 lead going into the final quarter.
Though winning that period by 19- 13 it wasn’t enough to see Rockets progress in the Play-off Championship despite the efforts of Francis, Toluwase and Pinnock who worked tirelessly to try and reduce the deficit. Williams hit his second treble of the afternoon coupled to a Toluwase brace from the free throw line which saw Rockets just eight points behind within ninety seconds of the re-start but Riders traded baskets until Williams scored , drew the foul and made it a three point play as Toluwase again went inside to score causing Riders to take a time -out at 59-68 . Toluwase reduced the difference further and then sent an assist to Pinnock to see Rockets in with a chance of victory at just five points adrift at 63-68 with two minutes twenty to go. Riders score and a three point Rockets effort comes back off the ring but Rockets cause Riders into a twenty four second violation before Toluwase hits a big treble leaving Rockets even closer at 66-70 with forty seconds remaining. Despite Sam Grant scoring , Riders went to the line as Rockets were in team foul trouble and saw the game out 75-68.
Yet another close encounter for Rockets and again Rockets were so competitive in most areas of rebounds, assists, blocks and steals but lost out from the penalty stripe by 7 to 17 points coupled to points from turnovers where Riders had 19-10 by Rockets. Top scorers for Rockets were Leome Francis with 19 points and 7 rebounds as Sam Toluwase hit a double double with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Reis Pinnock returned to his old club with 10 points and 7 rebounds.
(Photos by Riders Media Team)