Reading Rockets 68-95 Solent Kestrels
With the season having been seriously compacted due to the pandemic and the restrictions in games it has brought to the sport, it means that the southern teams play each other twice and then play the northern teams just once. Great in application, reducing travel etc etc but there’s a preponderance of the top teams in the top division of English basketball just happening to be in the south, including Team Solent Kestrels who haven’t lost for more than 2 years so meeting them again just 4 weeks after playing them away was another challenge for Rockets…..and how well they stuck to their task drawing the second half by 40 points each.
However this talented and deep Solent squad had shot out of the blocks taking the opening quarter by 35-16 as Rockets turned the ball over seven times to Solent’s two and were more successful in conversion rates of both field goals and treble shots. Sam Grant opened Rockets scoring with a spin move and O’Showen Williams drove to score early but a 11-0 Solent run dented Rockets hopes. Grant hit the first treble of the game from a great assist from Williams but Solent responded with three of their own. A Reis Pinnock treble coupled to a Williams finger roll and a Ben Dixon drive in a Rockets 7-0 run reduced the arrears but Solent’s sharpshooters and excellent inside guys took the period 35-16.
Chuck Duru was secure from the line as he got Rockets scoreboard rolling again, something he repeated a minute later before taking a charge as Rockets worked hard on their defence but Solent kept the margin early in the second quarter. A Williams assist to Grant enabled the 6’8” teenager to launch another treble but a Solent tip in and a treble were their responses as the gap widened . A Pinnock length of the court pass to Sam Toluwase was Rockets final score before the interval where Solent held a 55-28 advantage having dominated the paint by 28 points to Rockets ten and capitalising on Rockets turnovers with 24 points to just 5 from Rockets.
Coach Keane was under no illusions as to the task for the remainder of the game and a 9-4 run at the start of the third period encouraged the hosts before a buzzer beater finish from Solent stopped Rockets advances. Nonetheless the Berkshire outfit kept to their half time brief and were most competitive as they hit 22 points to Solent’s 28 in this quarter as Dixon went into double figures and Grant remained a threat to Solent. If only a pair of long trebles which rimmed out had dropped the quarter would have been even more equal but a heart rendering 7-0 Solent run as the period ended meant Rockets were further adrift at 83-50 despite playing much better in the quarter.
Rockets’ youngest player Ronnie Oguekwe was introduced to the game and made an immediate impression as he hit 6 points , took down 6 rebounds and made an assist . A Pinnock drive and Duru floater cut Solent’s lead and another Academy youngster Jacob Stanuel-Taitte hit a treble reminding us all that the academy programme at the John Madejski Academy is a source of great talent for now and the future. An Oguekwe offensive rebound and score lit up the youngster before a Dixon steal and assist to Oguekwe saw Rockets take the final quarter 18-12 and draw the second half 40 points each lifting the team before Sunday’s home game.
Top scorers for Rockets were Sam Grant with 15 points and 7 rebounds followed by 2 players not normally in the top three scorers namely Ben Dixon with 11 points and 2 steals and Chuck Duru with 10 points and 5 rebounds.