In a titanic battle that went to the last few plays, Rockets unbeaten record was surrendered as they fought back from 17 points adrift at 38-55 to lead 87 -86 with almost 2 minutes 30 remaining. However the Rebels frequency at the penalty stripe was the determining factor as they had 40 free throws to just 19 for Rockets.
Essex lit up the opening exchanges with a brace of trebles before captain Lewis Champion secured Rockets first points from beyond the arc and Chris Alexander scored with a slam. With Champion and Mitch Clarke taking charges the opening quarter was to see the game tied on 7 and 16 before Rockets edged ahead 25-24 as Isaac Round hit a treble.
Rebels stroked a treble to start the second period but the game was a close encounter until Rebels held an 8 point advantage as the interval beckoned. However back stormed Rockets with a pair of trebles from Reis Pinnock and Jermiah Jenkins to close the gap to 38-40 as the local dance troupe Messy Jam entertained the packed bleachers during the interval.
Rebels began the third quarter on fire as they went on a 15-0 run leaving Rockets trailing by 17 on 38-55. 6 trebles eased their position as Head Coach Samit Nuruzade took a time -out to re-focus his team. And fight they did as they got to within 5 points with 5 seconds left on the clock at the end of the third period when Rebels hit their 6th treble of this period on the buzzer to lead 73-65 going into the final quarter..
Rebels extended their grip on the game with the first play but Clarke encouraged his team mates with an outstanding performance and a treble which Zack Powell followed with a score to level the game on 76 each. Rebels hit yet another treble to edge ahead by 5 but Champion hit a brace from the free throw line and Fin Porter finished a great Rockets team play moments before Pinnock drew Rockets level on 81 with just over 3 minutes to go. The cacophony of noise inside The Valley was a joy to behold but as the defiant and brilliant Clarke was fouled out inside the last 20 seconds, Rebels were secure from the free throw line to take the win in a most competitive league season to date. Mitch Clarke hit 31 pts, took down 5 rebounds, made 5 assists and 3 steals in a Player of the Game performance. Fin Porter hit 16 pts and Lewis Champion 10 pts and 5 assists as Rockets remain one of the top teams with just a single defeat to date.
Rockets travel to London Elite next Saturday before playing Derby Trailblazers in the Kitking Trophy semi-final at Loddon Vallet at 4 pm on sun 26th Nov.