Manchester Magic vs Reading Rockets

The first game of 2019 began with Rockets needing some fire and the players looking as though the Christmas pudding had stopped them from getting off the floor and taking rebounds as Magic took down and commanded  the boards, storming into a 17-17 early lead which they extended to 33-19 by the first break. Four trebles and a 3 point play were some of the extent of Magic’s superiority.

With Rockets finding themselves 19-38 down midway through the second quarter, Head Coach Alan Keane had to change many things and personnel switches. These proved most successful as Rockets roared into life taking the second period 24-19 and looking more in the game. A J Carr had proved a handful for Magic as he hit 12 personal points and Trae Pemberton was finding more space but the final play before half time saw Sydney Donaldson receive the inbounded ball as the clock showed less than 10 seconds, used up the time close to the buzzer before driving to score, drawing the foul and

 hitting the penalty shot to lift Rockets as they had a skip in their steps as they walked to the changing room just 11 points adrift with the score 43-54.

The 3 week lay-off was now something of the long past as Rockets powered into the third quarter taking it 30-18 to take a single digit lead at 73-72. Two of Rockets young Academy players were very influential as Sam Grant stroked a brace of trebles and scored with a jump shot whilst Arinze Emeka- Anyakwo made steals, defended the boards well and hit five personal points. Pemberton had found his length and hit three trebles and a pair of floaters to score 13 personal points and help lift Rockets further even with the big American Carr spending much time on the bench with 4 fouls.

A 25-15 final period saw Rockets secure another victory 98 to 87 and lift them to third in the league ahead of the visit of south coast rivals and current second placed Worthing Thunder to Rivermead next Sunday 13th Jan. Magic hit three trebles to stay in contention throughout the fourth quarter but Pemberton was imperious with another eleven point quarter haul coupled to crucial rebounding and steals. Emeka-Anyakwo scored ten personal points and took down a pair of key defensive rebounds as Rockets began to look forward to the 200 mile return journey secure in the knowledge they’re still in the chasing pack seeking the league title.

Top scorers for Rockets were Trae Pemberton with 34 pts.,6 rebounds and 5 steals with Arinze Emeka-Anyakwo hitting 15 pts., taking down 4 rebounds and making 3 steals and A J Carr with 14 pts., and 4 assists plus Sam Grant with his first. 8pts Senior haul and taking down 3 rebounds and making a steal in an impressive forward for the 16 yo who had played a junior Men game some 6 hours earlier in the day and arrived just an hour before tip….surely a game and weekend to remember for Grant.


Manchester Magic vs Reading Rockets

In a titanic battle where a single point kept the teams apart until the interval, Magic opened up a double digit lead in the third leaving it all for Rockets to do in the fourth.
They came perilously close to achieving the win by clawing back the deficit to 88-89 with just 31.9secs left but a Magic score and a Rockets miss saw Magic at the free throw line to take the victory by just 5 points at 93-88.
Rockets captain Danny Carter returned as a starter and dished an assist to Scotty Hendricks who hit a treble. Ali Sbai and Declan Soukup did likewise but Magic stroked four of their own to highlight the evenness of these two teams. Tim Gill again showed his value to Rockets as he worked tirelessly around both baskets taking down rebounds and finishing well in the paint. Jonny Foulds took the first of two charges as he stood defiant as Magic strove to the ring and Manchester returnee Ed scored from his own rebound as Rockets stayed a single point adrift at 27-28 at the first break.

Magic were quick off the mark in period two and opened up a 6 point advantage before Carter pulled up for a score and Hendricks drained a treble though he was called for a foul as he scored. Sydney Donaldson demonstrated his various skills as he made three assists and opened his personal tally with an offensive rebound score coupled to a base line drive finish. Hendricks hit another treble to see Rockets still very much in contention at 41-43 but a mistake by Rockets was severely punished by a Magic alley hoop and despite 4 attempts in the last 18 seconds from one play, Rockets went to the locker room 48-51.

A 10-5 opening by Manchester saw them lead by 8 points early in the third quarter but a defensive rebound and coast to coast score by Donaldson lifted Rockets spirits. A Gill dish to Sbai to hit a treble closed the gap but Magic were relentless in their offence and soon were a double digit ahead at 72-62. Exchange of baskets towards the end of the third period still left Rockets with a mountain to climb at 68-78 down as the final quarter beckoned.

A 7-0 run by Rockets caused Magic to call an early time out and Magic hit a treble to ease ahead by six. Donaldson drove and hit both resultant free throws having taken a steal and scored moments earlier. Gill continued to keep Rockets close at three down midway through the final period at 80-83. Magic were in team foul trouble but unfortunately Rockets couldn’t capitalise on it as they struggled from the free throw line, most unusual for the Berkshire outfit. This proved ultimately to be their Achilles heel as despite getting to just a single point adrift with 31.9 secs remaining Magic hit a wide jump shot and a pair of free throws to secure the win by 93-88.

Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces was most disappointed with giving up so many points after his team’s preparations and has vowed to try and put that right before Bradford Dragons come to Rivermead on Sun 12th November tipping at 5 pm.

Top scorers for Rockets were Tim Gill with an excellent performance and 26 points and 13 rebounds, Sydney Donaldson with 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and a steal with Scotty Hendricks hitting 13 points, and Danny Carter with 10 points and 7 rebounds.


Manchester Magic vs Bradford Dragons


Manchester Magic vs Reading Rockets

In their last league game of the season the injury hit team fought tenaciously coming back from 17 points down to get within a shot of winning the battle for the league runners up spot with possession and just 7.7 secs remaining but the drive and lay up just rolled around the ring and didn’t fall giving Magic the win.

Rockets Chairman Gary Johnson was first to say how proud he is of the team who lost 3 of their first 4 games, then went on a 19-0 winning streak but 5 games in the final 15 days of the league season was just a step too far for the depleted team. ‘4 games in 8 days made it extremely tough but the guys fought as we know those wearing a Rockets vest always do’, said Johnson.

‘I’m sure the coaches and team are bitterly disappointed but we have the Championship play off quarter final to come on Sunday 2nd April and I know they’ll be determined to try and bring silverware back to the town.’.

Manchester opened the scoring and drew the first foul within 19 secs of the start but soon Chris Hooper did what he does best, spun and put Rockets on the scoreboard. When captain Danny Carter was called for his second personal foul mid way through the opening quarter Rockets knew it was going to be a tough game keeping on the right side of the officials which ultimately they didn’t as both Rockets’ big inside men, Hooper and Carter were benched on 3 fouls each before the interval.

In the 18/19 first period Hooper had 10 personal points and was proving a thorn in Magic’s side but he couldn’t add to that before he was called for a foul which immediately was followed by a technical foul despite him not remonstrating with the officials and much to the disquiet of Rockets Head Coach Manuel Pena Garces. Craig Ponder stroked a single to get Rocket within a single point of Magic but the lack in depth of big men in this period saw Magic make hay taking it 21/11 and leading at the break 40/29.

A Ponder drive and Hooper spin encouraged Rockets who had their biggest travelling support of the season but three consecutive misses were punished by Magic who opened up a 17 point lead just over 3 minutes into the third quarter. Carter stroked a treble, only Rockets’ second of the game. and Juan Valerio scored off the glass. Hooper was secure from the penalty stripe and Valerio drove to reduce the deficit. Some big defensive boards by Hooper didn’t get the benefit they deserved as Rockets missed the scoring opportunity and when Ponder didn’t get the roll of the ball with a lay-up Rockets found themselves with a double digit deficit at 42/52.

A pair of drives by Valerio and a defensive rebound by Carter saw Rockets close the gap to just 6 points in the last minute of the third  but Valerio hit the court hard in  one drive and  the game was held up whilst he had treatment. Rockets missed a scoring opportunity in this time so went into the final quarter 46/52 adrift.

Rockets exploded out of the blocks with an 8-0 run to take the lead 54-52 as Magic called a time out. In the next minute or so they hit back to back trebles , made a steal and score and then hit another treble to regain some sort of control. But Ali Sbai hit his only treble of the game and Ponder made a steal and went coast to coast to score and  to see Rockets quickly back in contention just 4 points in arrears at 61/65. A Carter spin and score was cancelled out by the referees for travel much to the amazement of him and the coaching team. Still Rockets fought and were in the ascendancy as the final minute showed on the clock. A Magic treble was matched by a Carter treble and with just 37.3 secs remaining, Rockets had fouls to give and put pressure on Magic as they went to the free throw line. A pair scored and a pair missed was separated by another Carter score before the Rockets captain drained a big treble to take Rockets to a single point deficit with

14.9 secs remaining. Magic hit just one from two from the line and Rockets had possession.  Ponder drove to the basket with 7.7 secs to go, rose and offered the ball to the ring , hoping to also draw the foul and give Rockets the chance of victory but the ball rolled across the ring and slipped off leaving Rockets to foul, trying to get another possession but Magic hit the penalty shots and Rockets runners up goal had been shattered with disappointment despite a great fight back and against all the odds.

Rockets now have a week to recover before the Championship Play-off quarter final at Rivermead on Sunday tipping at 5 pm – the opposition is likely to be Team Solent Kestrels or Loughborough Student Riders, but this is not yet confirmed.   Whoever Rockets are playing, it will be a great game and one not to be missed.

Top scorers for Rockets were Chris Hooper with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Danny Carter with17 points., and 9 rebounds and Craig Ponder with 17 points,

7 rebounds and 4 assists.

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Manchester Magic vs Team Northumbria