Wednesday, 2 March 2016 vs Bulls
Last night saw the 3rd meeting of the season between the 2nd placed Rockets (10-5-1) and the 3rd placed Bulls (8-8). The Rockets had so far dominated the season series with crushing wins to the tune of 57-13 and 55-43. With the two teams looking likely to face each other again in next week’s cutthroat semi-final matchup this game provided an invaluable insight opportunity for both sides.
With the Rockets missing Houghton (Knee), Gurry (Flu-like symptoms) and Cheong (Lame) the Rockets starting line-up looked markedly different to what should roll out next week. Shaking off a pre-game uniform malfunction, Procopio starred for the Rockets in an uninspiring first half that saw both offences struggle to put points on the board. At risk of giving up a big lead, the Rockets did enough to only trail 18-16 at the half.
The Rockets looked far more focused in the second half with better ball movement and spacing proving the perfect foil to the Bulls ill-advised Box-and-1 defence in a effort to curb Procopio’s influence. Binder took advantage of the poor defence to extend the Rockets lead as he finished the game with 15 points on five made three-pointers and a dominant performance on the defensive glass. He was well supported by Smith (10 points) and Procopio (9 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists) as the Bulls found it difficult to bring the deficit back into single figures.
Had Golding been able to hit the backside of a barn from under the ring the margin way well have stretched out to near 20 points, however the Rockets cruised to a comfortable 44-31 win and take much confidence into next weeks matchup.
Wednesday, 24 February 2016 vs Honey Badgers
Last night saw the third matchup of the season between the 2nd placed Rockets (10-5) and the 6th placed Honey Badgers (8-8). With the season series split 1-1 and the Honey Badgers needing to win to keep any hope alive of a miracle playoff berth, this matchup promised to be a closely contested battle. The Rockets were boosted by the addition of Procopio to the team sheet as he returned from a long injury layoff.
A bright start from outside the perimeter helped the Rockets take first control in the match as they opened up a 14-8 lead early on, however an opportune time-out and decision to switch to a man on man defence by the Honey Badgers proved to be a master stroke as they dominated the last few minutes of the first half and went to halftime with a handy 22-16 lead.
A bright start to the second half from the Rockets saw them erase the deficit and briefly take the lead with Gurry starting to dominate on both ends of the court. Unfortunately another concentration lapse, perhaps stemming from having 2nd place sewn up, proved costly for the Rockets as they allowed some easy baskets and far too many rebounds for the Honey Badgers to take a 41-36 lead with only minutes remaining. An audacious 3 from Smith cut the deficit to 2 points then free throws from a rusty Procopio (1 of 2) and Gurry (2 of 2) saw the Rockets clinging to a 42-41 lead with 30 seconds to play. The Rockets looked to have cemented victory with Gurry blocking a layup attempt with 6 seconds to go however the Honey Badgers were able to inbound the ball, draw the foul and nervously hit 1 of 2 free throws to ensure the game ended with no losers in a 42-42 tie.
Wednesday, 10 February 2016 vs Pandas
Last night saw the 3rd matchup of the season between the 2nd placed Rockets (9-5) and the 7th placed Pandas (6-7). Having found themselves slumped to the bottom of the ladder due to a suspected 6 week deportation from Australia and 4 resulting forfeits, the Pandas were out to prove that they were a better team than the standings showed. With both previous matchups going down to the wire the Rockets were out to claim the season sweep with the added cherry of securing 2nd place for the playoffs.
Still missing their 5 time MVP Procopio as well as Ch’ng (DNP – Injured) and Cheong (DNP – Lame), an undermanned Rockets team started slowly and took their time finding their way on the offensive end. The Rockets poor turnovers gifted the Pandas some easy points, however the Pandas own shooting woes let the Rockets off the hook and the teams went into halftime in an underwhelming 17-17 tie.
A bright start to the second half saw the Rockets edge out to a 26-23 lead with Smith showcasing his outside game along with a magnificent fast break floater off the board. However, the familiar foe of turnovers reared their head again and breathed impetus into a flat Pandas team who suddenly found themselves with all the momentum and a 32-28 lead with 7 minutes remaining thanks to their fast break and dagger shooting from Zach Khoo. With stalwarts Binder and Gurry trying their best to keep the Rockets in touch, the Rockets received a boost from Golding who put on his big-boy pants for a 3-point play that closed the gap to a single point and ignited the Rockets.
With both teams picking up the intensity over the closing minutes of the game the Rockets were able to hold on to a gritty 42-38 win thanks to big buckets from Gurry and Binder again as well as the Pandas clutch shooting more reminiscent of a monkey throwing around its own faeces.
Wednesday, 3 February 2016 vs Knights
Last night saw the 3rd meeting of the season between the 2nd place Rockets (9-4) and the league-leading Knights (10-3). The Knights have had the wood over the Rockets in the seasons previous meetings and the mood pre-game indicated the Rockets were not confident in causing the upset.
With all the intensity of an adult star trying to beat the record for number of partners in a day the Rockets looked lifeless on both ends in the opening minutes turning the ball over and giving up open shots which the Knights gratefully accepted, storming to an early 12-2 lead. A quick check of heart and pride lifted the Rockets and they started to scrap their way back into the game with ball movement and contesting on the defensive end. 2 blocked shots and a steal within 90 seconds from Golding seemed to galvanise the Rockets as they rose to the challenge to keep in touch 32-28 at halftime.
The second half was a showcase of quality basketball that would belong in any C2 Division social basketball in the country with both teams executing well and playing with passion. Stalwarts Binder and Gurry were well supported by Cheong and Rey who drilled midrange jumper after midrange jumper to keep the Rockets in touch. Despite levelling scores numerous times the Rockets could not force their way to a lead and some poor finishing close to the basket late in the game allowed the Knights to close out a 58-52 win in one of the games of the season.
Wednesday, 20 January 2016 vs Reserves
Last night saw the second clash of the season between the 2nd placed Rockets (8-3) and the 4th placed Reserves (4-7). Having a season to forget in last place until a surprise win over the 1st placed Knights a fortnight ago the Reserves had taken advantage of some favourable results elsewhere in the competition to find themselves in the hunt for a coveted playoff spot.
Having won the previous matchup 33-30 the Rockets were confident in dispatching the Reserves with relative ease, especially given the absence of their top scorer Stehens (18.0 ppg). The Rockets appeared to have under estimated the Reserves in a scrappy 1st half of short runs by both teams. The Reserves seemed to revel in their freedom on offense without Stehens who in previous games has looked like he’d prefer to pass a kidney stone before the ball. At the end of the 1st half it was 20-19 Reserves with both teams feeling good about their chances for the win.
A quick start to the second half by the Reserves saw their confidence grow with each made bucket and each stop against a misfiring Rockets squad and with less than 10 minutes to go found themselves with a commanding 31-22 lead. However, the Rockets refused to throw in the towel and dug deep over the last few minutes as big triples from Smith and Binder helped reduce the deficit to 31-30 with just over a minute remaining.
After another nervous Reserves brick enabled the Rockets to control the ball, an unexpected hero would emerge. After good ball movement found Rey open for his bread and butter midrange he was able to hit the biggest shot of the game over outstretched arms of defenders to give the Rockets a shock 32-31 lead with under 30 seconds to go. A hard foul by Binder to try and waste time had a better than expected effect when the Reserves player lost his cool and threw the ball at Binder resulting in a technical foul and time running down to a memorable Rockets victory.