Reading Rockets 86 v 89 Thames Valley Cavaliers
In a pulsating game on Tuesday evening Rockets came from 21 points down to take the lead with just 1 minute 17 seconds left but a trademark treble saw the visitors take the spoils.
Cavaliers shot out of the blocks in the opening quarter as they drained four trebles and had a treble from the free throw line despite Leome Francis dominating the rebounds ( 14 in the game ) from the outset. Sam Toluwase, one of two Rockets players in Basketball England’s Team of the week last week ( together with O’Showen Williams ) worked hard and tirelessly from tip to buzzer. Ben Dixon scored with a lay-up as Reis Pinnock went coast to coast to finish but Rockets found themselves 8-15 adrift mid-way through the first quarter. A Williams drive and dish to Jaz Bains to hit his first treble kept Rockets close but Cavaliers looked comfortable with a 27-19 lead.
Rockets scored off their first possession in the second period as a Sam Grant dish to Bains saw him stroke a treble but a buzzer beating treble response from Cavaliers suggested that whatever Rockets threw at them, Cavaliers had the armoury to respond immediately. Three more Cavaliers trebles before the break made it hard work for the Rockets though Toluwase finished with a slam and Bains made a great interception to score. However Cavaliers were ‘hot’ and took the quarter 28-17 to open up a 55-36 advantage at the interval.
Head Coach Alan Keane had his work cut out to turn things around, and how well he did that, only for Rockets to fall at the final hurdle. Great effort; much improved second half performance which Rockets took 50-34 and encouraging as the Championship Play-offs are just 4 weeks away. Two drives by Pinnock and Williams got Rockets off to a great start to quarter three which improved as Dixon dished a pass to Pinnock to hit a treble whilst stopping Cavaliers advances. A Toluwase offensive rebound and score fired up Rockets again before he hit a long two and Pinnock hit his third treble of the game but still the hosts were down 50-64 midway through the third period. An 8 personal points run by Williams including a brace of trebles , one a buzzer beater, saw Rockets cut the deficit to single figures but again Cavaliers stroked a treble to lead 74-62 as the final quarter beckoned.
A 24-15 quarter got Rockets mightily close to upsetting the apple cart as Cavaliers have lost only one game this season , and that against joint league leaders and undefeated Solent Kestrels, so this performance was outstanding. Rockets defence was almost a lock out compared to the opening quarter as every player stepped up to the mark, and exceeded it. Having scored 12 points in the third quarter Williams knew he had to continue to be on fire ( and he did with 9 more points ) as Toluwase continued to impose himself at both ends of the court as he hit 11 personal points in quarter four . Within three minutes of the start of this period Rockets were just 69-76 down and had phenomenal team energy as they stayed in contention with four minutes to go as Toluwase was fouled three consecutive times by Cavaliers which Toluwase accepted by scoring six points from the free throw line to see the score at 78-80 with 3.41 to go. Bains took a key charge to stop a Cavaliers score and Williams drove to bring the scores level on 80 apiece. Both teams scored to tie the game for only the second time throughout this encounter before Cavaliers converted one from two free throws to have the advantage again but a Toluwase spin move gave Rockets the lead ( for the only time in the game ) 84-83 with 1.17 left. Could Rockets hold out ? The single treble of the quarter for Cavaliers was scored by their American Taylor Johnson to hurt Rockets before a tough referee call gave Cavaliers two free throws which they hit to lead 89-86 as Rockets had the last possession. A treble to draw the game and take it into overtime came back off the rim and Cavaliers took the win….by a whisker !!
Great game. Excellent second half Rockets performance. An ever improving Rockets was a delight to watch.
Top scorers for Rockets were Sam Toluwase with 28 points, 7 rebounds with O’Showen Williams hitting 25 points , also taking down 7 rebounds though adding 5 assists and 2 steals to his overall performance. Reis Pinnock hit 13 points and took down 5 rebounds to add to his 3 assists whilst Jaz Bains hit 10 points and made 3 steals. Leome Francis had 14 rebounds and made 3 steals too.
Rockets now travel to Hemel Storm for the weekend game on Saturday 27thMarch tipping at 5 pm.