Match Report: Oaklands Wolves

By Jamie King

Reading Rockets 112 – Oaklands Wolves 76

The Rockets played host to the Oaklands Wolves on Sunday evening, looking for their fifth win in eight games this season. Despite coming into the fixture with only one win, the Wolves were faced with a locked-in Reading side who, buoyed by the return of Tyler Cartaino and the great energy of Rivermead’s lively crowd, put together a dominant performance across all four quarters on their way to a resounding 112-76 victory.

Setting the tone for the whole game, first blood was drawn by the Rockets by virtue of a Cartaino mid-range bucket on the opening play. Early turnovers by the Wolves allowed the Rockets to rattle off a 6-0 lead before a Jonathan James layup gave Oaklands their first points. The two sides traded buckets inside, Meshack Lufile providing for the Rockets and Michael New Jr. for the Wolves, before Cartaino pulled down an offensive rebound and earned two free throws when fouled on the putback. He converted both to kick off a strong free-throw shooting night for the Rockets, who hit 76% from the stripe across the contest. Meshack’s strong play inside continued next time down the floor, where he converted off of a pick-n-roll thanks to a slick bounce pass from Cartaino. Despite struggling from three, the Rockets continued to work their way inside to generate free throws and layups, with Lewis Champion firing an outlet pass over the defense to assist Reis Pinnock before scoring two of his own off of an offensive rebound. He turned provider again to give Cartaino a runway on a fastbreak, pushing the Rockets’ lead to 9 as the quarter drew to a close. Sam Toluwase produced four points through free throws and a well-worked hook shot after carving out space on the block, and Ben Dixon gave the Rockets their first three of the night as the quarter ended to put the Rockets up 26-14 going into the second.

The second quarter opened similarly to the first, with the Wolves mirroring the Rockets’ interior scoring and both teams committing turnovers. Toluwase broke the equilibrium of the second quarter with a pair of free throws after an unsportsmanlike foul call on Oaklands’ Okiki, and Mesahck drove home the advantage after a dominant showing on the offensive glass. A Cartaino three pushed the lead to a commanding 38-19, forcing a timeout from the Wolves halfway through the second. Both teams continued to feast on the offensive boards but it was the Wolves who profited first as Veiz Cani hauled down the ball and was fouled by Meshack, hitting the two resulting free throws. Looking to build momentum, Oaklands promptly hit a three courtesy of James but their offense was soon stymied by Reading’s defense both in the halfcourt and in transition. Ronnie Oguekwe pushed the pace to earn himself free throws on the break, converting one to end a brief Oaklands run. Seth Wylie scored two long jumpers from the right baseline to give the Wolves some much-needed offense, but Sam Toluwase sunk a three from the top of the arc to preserve the Rockets’ lead. Ben Dixon was next to enjoy a small scoring spree, putting up eight points in a minute-and-a-half to increase Reading’s advantage before Ashley Kitchen hit a three with the last play of the quarter to give Reading a remarkable 57-32 lead at halftime.

The early exchanges of the third quarter laid waste to any hopes of a comeback, as Sam T hit a three just seconds into the quarter and quickly followed it with an easy two inside. Jordan Jackson tried to give the Wolves some firepower with seven points early in the quarter, but a Meshack baseline spin-and-dunk got the Rivermead crowd going despite Jackson’s attempted heroics. A Wylie three continued the Wolves’ hot scoring, but the Rockets’ dominant lead held strong thanks to continued attacks inside. The teams traded baskets as the quarter continued with the lead hovering around the 25-point mark, the action punctuated by an athletic Reis Pinnock fastbreak dunk. The baskets began to flow more freely as the quarter closed, with both teams enjoying trips to the line and accurate jump-shooting which ran up the score to the tune of an 84-55 advantage for Reading.

The fourth quarter passed without any real signs of a comeback, giving the Rocket’s younger players a chance to show their stuff in front of the lively Rivermead fans. Ashley Kitchen earned early free throws and Ronnie Oguekwe converted inside off a patient Pinnock dime, the younger players feeding off of the energy provided by the team’s senior stars. Cartaino contributed a pair of layups to neutralize a three made by Oaklands’ Michael New Jr. before Live Kivuvu got in on the scoring action with two points of his own. Cartaino, clearly enjoying being back on the floor with his teammates, was in no mood to ease up in the closing minutes and he put up five more points late before handing the reigns back to the Rocket’s cast of young players, as Kitchen, Oguekwe and Isaac Round produced the Rocket’s final baskets to finish the game with a brilliant 112-76 victory. Another balanced performance from the Rockets saw Lufile, Cartaino and Toluwase all break 20 points on strong efficiency – particularly from Toluwase, who missed just one field goal all night. The guards were effective and patient, with Pinnock and Champion producing 17 assists between them, and a point total of 112 was testament to the clinical offense of Coach Pearson’s squad as they committed to attacking the paint and utilizing their interior size and athleticism. It will be particularly encouraging for Coach Pearson to have seen the depth of his squad in this fixture as the younger players showcased their talents in front of the brilliant home crowd. The Rockets will hope to carry this form forwards into a busy pre-Christmas run of league and Lynch Trophy fixtures, with plenty to play for in both competitions.