Essex Leopards vs Reading Rockets

Though Rockets fell to their third defeat in a row, this was an improved offensive performance though defensively, they know they need to step it up again. Hopefully Adrian O’Sullivan will be shirted up for the home game on Sunday when they entertain Bradford Dragons at The Mead..

This game began still with the task acknowledged as very tough as Leopards are on a winning streak , signed new players and have strength in depth coupled to Asante Sandiford on a purple patch that sees him regularly get double doubles and sometimes treble doubles…a rare fete though today he got within one assist of that again. It was pleasing to see Sydney Donaldson troubling the scorers as he did before Christmas as he top scored with 19 points supporting the two dependable American players A J Carr and Trae Pemberton. Though he best stat from the game was arguably seeing 5 players each have double digit scores including Academy student Adri Nosa  and recent signing Tanner Kuehn.

Rockets hit three trebles in the opening quarter and took it 25-23 as Rockets three fit experienced players ( Trae, Sydney and A J ) were prominent with 6, 7 and 8 points respectively. However the two minute break between the opening periods stirred up the Leopards who came out fighting as they stroked a brace of trebles in their first two offences to regain the lead, one they didn’t relinquish for the rest of the game despite Rockets nibbling away and getting within 3 points in quarter two before a final 5-0 run saw Leopards in the changing room 48-39 ahead.. Sandiford had hit 22 pts by this time and was 7 from 7 from the line.

Leopards went to the line 13 times in the third period but Rockets just once as Rockets fell foul of the referees.  Leopards capitalised in a big way as they had their biggest lead at 70-45 in this time. The big cat clawed its way to a whopping advantage but the young Rockets ignited their own vehicle with a 15-3 run to make the game winnable again at 60-73 as the fourth quarter beckoned. Rockets played some very good ball from the start and were unfortunate not to close the gap even more as they pressed Leopards. Tanner Kuehn scored with an offensive rebound and Carr scored off a steal as the score was 64-75 but Kuehn was called for his fifth and disqualifying foul though he had scored 10 pts., and took down 5 rebounds. Leopards went to the line another 27 times in the second half alone compared to Rockets three so Rockets found themselves with four players excluded and just 4 fit players on court for the final minute or so as Arinze Emeka- Anyakwo was winded and couldn’t return to the court as the end game was played out.

The final score of 93-78 reflected the game but Head Coach Alan keane will be looking through the film as to why Rockets were called for so many fouls as Leopards won the game from the free throw line alone by 30-8. Keane will be hoping the mercurial Irish point guard O’Sullivan will get a run this coming weekend as Rockets look to secure their place in the Championship Play-offs.


READING ROCKETS vs Loughborough Student Riders

In what was clearly going to be a tough final for Rockets Ladies as 7 of the Rockets team of 12 are not only Academy players ( under 18yo ) but had also played less than 24 hours before as they took the Junior Women title. So could they put the inevitable physical tiredness and the emotion of winning the day before, behind them.

Head Coach David Sanchez was well aware of that but was expectant as his team had fought many tough battles to reach this final and they were well prepared. However the sight of one of England’s brightest basketball hopes for many years being released from her primary professional league seniors ( Leicester Riders ) , on court, increased the level of difficulty against an already talented side. In reality Holly Winterburn for Riders and Monica Herranz for Rockets were the two outstanding stars of either team and fought for the MVP too.

Riders shot off to an initial 7-0 run before Rockets drew level on nine each midway through the opening period before Riders finished that quarter with a 12-0 blitz. Rockets had missed seven open shots and Winterburn had scored 13 of Riders 21-9 lead.  A stunned Rockets team used the 2 minute break but Riders charged to another 7-0 opening start to quarter two to enjoy a 28-9 advantage. Herranz hit 14 before the break including 2 from 3 trebles to help Rockets stay in contention though 25-41 in arrears.

The third period saw Rockets further adrift at 42-64 but these young players have a never say die attitude that was much appreciated by the packed stands and though going down to a better team on the day, gave a spirited display of what’s to come in the future for the whole female development programme. At Rockets.

With Herranz being rested in the final few minutes the final score was 54- 81 . Herranz had finished with 20 pts.,13 rebounds and 3 assists whilst 16 yo Carmen Moreno had 8 pts and 17 yo Noa Sanchez-Marques 7 pts, 3 assists and 3 steals.

Rockets still have much league action ahead before that draws to a close in April so why not pop along, watch them at JMA or Rivermead …or join one of young teams ?