Match Report: Rockets Men 102-96 Nottingham Hoods

Rockets edged a 102-96 overtime thriller against Nottingham Hoods to record a crucial win in the NBL Division One playoff race at Nechells Wellbeing Centre on Saturday evening.

Nottingham currently hold the final playoff birth, with Saturday’s win bringing Rockets just one win away from a coveted top eight playoff position.

With the race for a playoff place heating up, Rockets now hold the head-to-head advantage against Nottingham having also beaten them in the reverse fixture back in November.

Coach Nuno Rodrigues’ side went into the all-midlands affair with a 5-12 record – sitting in eleventh in NBL Division One, looking to bounce back from last Saturday’s road defeat against Loughborough.

Our visitors came into the game with a record of 7-10 – sitting in eighth place in the division after a run of poor form.

In a game full of narrative, perhaps the most intreaguing storyline going into the contest was the return of Kayne King to Nechells Wellbeing Centre for the first time since departing Rockets back in January.

The first quarter started with Sam Toluwase rising high for a layup for the first points of the game.

Martyn Gayle crossed his man over and hit a corner three form the left side to entertain the home fans.

Coach Rodrigues’ side found joy pressing high up the court in the early stages, tipping passes and disrupting Hoods’ transition.

Gayle was at it again with another three as he kept Rockets in touching distance early on.

Nottingham Hoods took the lead with 6 minutes to go in the first. Orlan Jackman’s huge block under the basket kept Rockets in the game.

Rockets fought back with Sam Toluwase causing Hoods problems in the paint as he tied the game with a second chance layup. Both sides went back and forth with neither being able to pull away and build a substantial lead.

Rockets’ final points of the quarter came with Martyn Gayle spinning and hitting a mid-range jumper to give us a slim two point lead as the first quarter ended, Rockets led 22-20.

The second quarter began with Ron Oberia finishing a beautiful passing move by Rockets down the right side of the court.

Rockets looked dangerous at the start of the second with Ben Tew finishing at the rim to give us a 4 point lead.

Hoods thought they had a reply as they hit a mid-range jumper before Orlan Jackman received the ball at the top of the key and converted through traffic for the three-point play.

Orlan Jackman led the charge in the second quarter, he put up 7 points in just 3 minutes for Rockets as Hoods struggled to guard him.

Coach Rodrigues’ side showed hustle on defense and fought for every loose ball as Rockets looked to take a commanding lead.

A late offensive surge in the final two minutes of the quarter gave Hoods the lead going into half time as Rockets trailed 43-37.

The third quarter started with Sam Toluwase and Reiss Faure-Daley hitting threes to get Rockets back into the tie.

The quarter undoubtedly belonged to Karl Teesdale, with the sharpshooter on fire from beyond the arc, leading the offense as Rockets built up a 14 point, 61-47 lead.

Martyn Gayle joined the offense as he hit another three point arrow and followed up by drawing the foul beyond the arc.

A brilliant quarter in which Rockets scored 31 points ended with Rockets leading 68-66.

The fourth began once again with Sam Toluwase hitting a three to carry on our offensive momentum.

Ben Tew looked aggressive in the paint as he grabbed a second chance bucket followed by drawing a foul after heavy contact.

Both teams battled and neither side could grab a foothold in the game. Toluwase and Gayle kept Rockets in the fixture with clutch threes.

Toluwase closed the game out with a layup followed by two converted free throws to level the game 86-86. That’s how it finished, and overtime awaited.

Rockets started the better in overtime with Gayle and Jackman leading the charge.

Nottingham fired back converting a layup and drawing the foul. They converted the free throw to put Rockets under pressure.

Orlan Jackman fired from beyond the arc and then once again drew the foul to convert both free throws and give Rockets a 5 point lead with just 2 minutes left.

The tension was high in Nechells as both sides couldn’t convert possessions before Nathan Ramsdale-Owen lifted the home crowd off their feet with a three from the left corner.

Ron Oberia confirmed the win with two free throws and Coach Nuno’s side held on for a 102-96 win.

Rockets had a host of highlight performances with Orlan Jackman putting up 25 points and 14 rebounds, Sam Toluwase scoring 24 points and 11 rebounds and Martyn Gayle ending the game on 21 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.

A thrilling game that had everything at Nechells as Rockets ran out deserved winners.

Rockets travel to Essex Rebels next weekend looking to build on the win before returning to Nechells to host defending champions Hemel Storm on 16th March – click here to get your tickets now!

Photos by Mansoor Ahmed.