Rockets took a tighter grip on a home tie in the Play-off Championship as they deservedly beat league leaders Solent Kestrels by a dozen points and stay securely in third position in the league with two games to go.
The game started at an electric pace as Sydney Donaldson scored Rockets opening four points before Solent troubled the scorers. Tim Gill took the first of his fifteen rebounds to score and the mercurial Scotty Hendricks lit up the arena with the first of his seven trebles. When captain Danny Carter gave an assist for Gill to score with a floater, then punished Kestrels from the free throw line before scoring off another offensive rebound, Rockets enjoyed a thirteen point advantage at 17-4. This double digit lead was something they enjoyed for virtually all the game except for a moment or two when Kestrels came within 5 / 6 of the hosts.
A 23-12 first quarter reflected the efforts and determination shown by the players to take the scalp of the National trophy winners for the first time this season. In fact the twelve point win means that should these teams end up in a head to head, Rockets have the edge having only lost at Southampton by eleven points. A 24-23 second period kept Rockets ahead but never comfortable against a talented and deep south coast outfit. Hendricks hit a couple of trebles, the last on the buzzer, whilst Declan Soukup was scoring as well as sending assist to his colleagues. Donaldson stood firm to take a charge and then made a fake, scored with the fall back and drew the foul making a three point play as Rockets started to move away form kestrels. But the league leaders fought back with a 6-0 , their best of the first half before Soukup arrived late to take a great pass and score edging Rockets 47-35 ahead at the interval. Only four of Rockets players had scored but each had double figures.
Rockets thought they’d scored from the first possession but the officials overruled it though Rockets Head Coach suggested it was a new rule and the score should have stood. Nonetheless Carter again sent an assist to Donaldson who finished well and soon Rockets had scored 50 points and led by fifteen. Four misses from the free throw line by Kestrels didn’t help their cause but Rockets were all over them defensively…most definitely their best defensive performance of the season to date. Another Hendricks treble saw Rockets ahead by 57-39 before back to back trebles from Kestrels point guard Herman Senor coupled to a three point play ( Kestrels 9-0 run being their best of the evening ) but Hendricks drained another treble before Soukup scored with a floater to see Rockets maintain their double digit advantage 62-51.
A Hendricks steal and score got Rockets firing as the final quarter began but Kestrels stopped Rockets next 3 possessions and added four points to get close at 59-65 on the back of an 8-0 run. Carter stopped the rot and then who else but Hendricks stroked a downtown treble and Soukup gave Carter a simple finish to re-store Rockets double digit lead at 71-61. Again Kestrels hit back to find themselves just six points down as the end game approached but Donaldson sent a great pass to Hendricks to hit his seventh treble… a feat he did last weekend too…before the very impressive Donaldson hit a brace from the free throw line to secure a fine and crucial victory 78-66.
Another fine team performance saw Rockets take the spoils with Scotty Hendricks hitting 27 pts., making 5 steals, 4 assists and taking down 5 rebounds in one of the best all round performances by any Rockets player this season. He was ably supported by Sydney Donaldson who hit 19 pts., took down 8 rebounds and made 3 steals whilst Declan Soukup had 14 pts., made 5 assist and took down 6 rebounds and Tim Gill hit had a double double with 13 pts., and 15 rebounds.
Rockets final weekend of the league season will be spent up north in Newcastle where they play current league champions Northumbria before going east to Bury where they take on Lancashire Spinners. Then a 2 week break to the play-offs.
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