Match Report: L Lynch Trophy – Thames Valley Cavaliers

Rockets came from 40-60 down early in the third quarter to pull off one of their best ever comebacks against a top team to put them in a strong position to qualify for the quarter-final stage of the LLynch Trophy having already defeated Oakland Wolves away last weekend. Rockets went from a losing position to victory as they went on a 53-27 run to take the scalp of the talented Cavaliers much to the delight of Rockets’ new Head Coach Dan Pearson in his inaugural season. Pearson only had his completed squad available for the last week and gave all his team much court time, including the talented academy players. 

Cavaliers scored first and took an early lead but returning after a decade away, guard, Lewis Champion, an ex-Cavalier last season stroked a treble before new signing Meshack Lufile scored ten points in his opening quarter in English basketball as Cavaliers found it difficult to keep him quiet. Reis Pinnock opened his personal tally with a coast-to-coast score whilst A J Basi was secure from the free-throw line through Rockets trailed 22-26 at the end of the first period.

Cavaliers were outrebounding Rockets and finishing inside as they extended their lead by 35-24 before Basi hit the first of his four trebles though he had to be rested as he was called for his third personal foul. Jaz Bains attracted the attention of the scorers with a treble moments before he took the first of his four charges showing the stout defence that Head Coach Pearson demands. Pinnock hustled to gain possession and 16-year-old Isaac Round scored with a wide treble the very first time he got the ball seeing Rockets down by just five before a 10-0 Cavaliers run saw Rockets further adrift at 38-53 at the interval.

Cavaliers again stormed out of the blocks increasing their lead to 60-40 and looking extremely confident that they’d taken the sting out of Rockets. However this mostly new team turned up the heat as both Sam Toluwase and A J stroked trebles from assists from Champion and Live Kivuvu respectively as they went on a 10-2 run and finding themselves just 52-62 down but despite Kivuvu scoring six personal points and hustling to gain possession, a three-point play at the death of the period edged Cavaliers into a 71-58 lead.

Lufile scored early for the Rockets and Champion took a charge, in the face, but showed how determined this set of guys were trying to get back into the contest. A Toluwase spin and a couple of points from Basi at the free-throw line edged Rockets closer but Cavaliers still pinched points off most forays around Rockets’ basket. A Basi treble and a top of the key similar shot from Kivuvu saw Rockets squeeze Cavaliers and when Jaz Bains took a charge and Pinnock safely converted a pair of free throws Rockets were 75-77 down. Stout defence and enterprising offence saw Rockets score the next three points and take the lead for the first time in the game causing Cavaliers to call a time-out at 77-78 down. An offensive foul by the Cavaliers caused a long stop in the game as the three officials decided what to do next but upon resumption, Basi stroked a treble and the whole team worked tirelessly to cause Cavaliers into a 24-second violation giving more belief and impetus to the Rockets. Lufile hit one from two from the penalty stripe to see the Rockets enjoy a small advantage of 82-77. Again Cavaliers came back with a score but Tyler Cartaino scored a treble to see Rockets six up with three minutes to go. Cavaliers scored and probably still expected to win with their depth of talent but each Rocket played was up for the end game scenario.  Bains hits treble and again takes a charge before moments later he hits another treble giving Rockets a double-digit lead going into the last minute and everyone starts to believe Rockets can win this LLynch Trophy pool game where the winner stands a good chance of progressing to the next stage. Champion ends Rockets scoring and Cavaliers hit three from the free-throw line in the last 1.9 seconds but the victory was Rocket with a 53-27 finish when 20 points adrift.

The top scorers for Rockets were A J Basi with 21 points, 4 assists, and a steal as academy student Live Kivuvu hit 14 points. Just landed Meshack Lufile hit 13 points,  Lewis Champion 11 points and 4 assists but make no bones about this was very much a team performance that will live long in Rockets memory and hopefully set them up for a league game next Saturday away to the league champions Solent Kestrels before entertaining Hemel Storm at Rivermead on Sunday 3rd October.