In a fast flowing game at Basketball England’s National Performance Centre in Manchester, Rockets fought tirelessly to come back from a 16 point deficit in the final quarter but just couldn’t take the win, despite some heroics .
With a proud history in this most prestigious of English basketball competitions dating back to 1937, Rockets were aware of the strong following of their all-conquering opposition who, though working their way through the lower divisions to join Rockets in the top English league in September, posed a more than serious competitor packed with very experienced players. The opening exchanges spoke of the game ahead as both defences snuffed out strong plays from the opponents as blocks, stops and just solid defence shone through with neither team scoring for over 2 minutes. Reis Pinnock gave a great assist to Chris Alexander to finish inside and get the scoreboard moving but three trebles from Breakers demonstrated their fire power though Elijah Maynard hit a brace to ensure Rockets took the opening quarter 24-19.
There was a great and excited atmosphere in the arena as the game continued though Rockets fell foul regularly of the officials gifting Breakers easy points from the free throw line. In fact this statistic, by the end of the game , spoke volumes as Breakers went to the line 45 times with 35 successes whereas Rockets only went to the penalty stripe 20 times with 15 successes. Lewis Champion took his customary charge stepping up Rockets defence as Breakers fought back tying the game on 35 each and then finishing period two with a 7-0 run to go to the interval with a 42-35 advantage
Head Coach Samit Nuruzade had clearly summoned his team as Maynard leapt high to make a big rejection before Alexander spun to score and Mitch Clarke sent a great assist to Maynard to stroke another treble seeing Rockets close to 40-42. A couple of quick tough calls not going Rockets way saw Breakers capitalise with a 10-0 run but a pair of free throws by Zack Powell moments before he took a charge stirred Rockets again, only to be thwarted as Clarke was called for his fourth personal foul restricting his influential role on court. With Rockets in team foul trouble Breakers stormed through the end of the quarter with another 10-2 run to enjoy a 65-49 lead going into the fourth period.
Could Rockets comeback again as they’ve so often done in other games this season ? A Champion three point play, a Powell drive and a Clarke score suggested they were certainly not playing as a defeated side and believed the Cup could be theirs. A team defensive stop, Clarke making a steal, scoring and then repeating the play stirred the Breakers to call a time -out as Rockets ignited .Another Alexander score and a brace of Clarke trebles saw Rockets just 4 points adrift at 70-74 with over four minutes remaining. Breakers hit four quick trebles but Maynard hit his fourth treble before a Powell steal and slam dunk brough pandemonium to the arena as a Rockets win was possible as they had the momentum whilst the deficit was just 80-85, just 2 shots from victory. However a tough call saw Breakers hit three from three from the free throw line with just 1minute 36 secs left and though Powell drained a treble Rockets had to foul to try and get the ball back to score but Breakers vast experience came to the fore again as they hit 5 from 6 from the line to see out the game.
Who knows what would have happened had Clarke not been sidelined in foul trouble so early in the game as he amassed 15 points in the final quarter ably supported by 8 points from Powell in this period and disturbing Breakers flow but that doesn’t detract from a fine Breakers win leaving Rockets to concentrate on the league and the Play-off Championships.
Top scorers for Rockets were Zack Powell with 21 pts, Mitch Clarke with 20 pts , Chris Alexander and Elijah Maynard hitting 12 apiece and Lewis Champion with 10 pts