Rockets saw their Kitking Trophy campaign come to an unfortunate end at Nechells Wellbeing Centre courtesy of a 85-82 defeat to Bradford Dragons on Saturday evening.
After recording three consecutive wins in the group stage of the competition, Rockets came into the game full of confidence as we looked to progress to the semifinals against an established Division One outfit in Bradford.
The first quarter saw Rockets get off to an electric start, with Orlan Jackman hitting a long range three to start the contest, before Ron Oberia took flight for a two-handed dunk.
Rockets defended well in the opening minutes both in the paint and on the perimeter with Jackman a real threat – drawing fouls and converting free throws as Rockets looked to take an early advantage.
Jordan Dawes also looked a threat on the inside, his drives to the basket were causing issues for the Bradford defence early on.
The first quarter ended 21-16, with Rockets holding a five point lead.
The second quarter showed off Rockets’ solid defense, with Jackman hitting a chase down block and Ron Oberia continuing his fine early season defensive form.
Martyn Gayle was electric from beyond the arc, he hit 4 out of 5 attempts from the perimeter in the first half.
Some great ball movement in the second quarter continued to present opportunities with Kayne King and Mike Price in particular linking up really well.
Orlan Jackman led the way offensively, he put up 19 points in the first half, with Martyn Gayle closely behind on 14.
On the defensive end, it was Martyn Gayle and Sam Toluwase who led the way, both recorded five rebounds each in the first half.
Rockets went into half time with a deserved 10 point lead, 48-38.
The third quarter saw Coach Rodrigues’ side start well, with the offensive momentum continuing in the early stages of the quarter.
Ronald “Air” Oberia took off once again in the opening seconds of the third, as he slammed the ball home from the right side to bring the crowd to its feet.
As the quarter progressed, Dragons started to fight back with lethal three point shooting.
Rockets’ lead was narrowed down to just 3 points by the end of the third, we went into the fourth with a narrow 61-58 advantage.
Bradford sensed an opportunity to turn the tide and came out in the fourth with great intensity on both sides of the floor – frustrating Rockets’ previously potent attacking threat whilst continuing their ruthless attacking display at the other end.
Indeed, our visitors had taken the lead with just seven minutes remaining and Rockets had it all to do to battle their way back into the contest.
A flurry of late attacks and missed Bradford free throws, oweing largely to the deafening noise created by our home crowd, opened a window for Rockets to snatch the game late on – but a couple of good looks from three came and went as Bradford held on.
And so the game would end, with Coach Rodrigues’ side suffering a narrow 85-82 defeat.
The game saw some great performances with Martyn Gayle putting up 26 points, 14 rebounds and shooting with great efficiency from beyond the arc. Orlan Jackman put up 19 points and Ron Oberia put up 14 points and 5 steals.
Nevertheless, Rockets’ inaugural KitKing Trophy journey ended in the quarter finals, with full focus now on the upcoming NBL Division 1 season – which begins next Saturday as we travel to face Barking Abbey in the season opener…