Wokingham Today

Rockets set semis date


Reading Rockets 89

Bradford Dragons 78

READING moved into the NBL Division One play-off semi-finals with a come-from-behind victory against Bradford at Rivermead.

Rockets came into the postseason as third seed and were heavy favourites against sixthseede­d Dragons, but trailed by nine points during the third quarter before eventually triumphing.

Declan Soukup led the charge with 26 points in the 89-78 success which sets up a clash at Hemel Storm in the semis, after they surprising­ly dispatched of second seed Team Solent Kestrels.

“Our performanc­e against Bradford wasn’t the best of the season,” admitted head coach Manuel Pena Garces.

“We found ourselves in some difficult moments but huge credit to the players who really fought hard and ground out the crucial win.

“We managed to navigate our way into a winning position and made some much better decisions in the final part of the game and really exploited a very good Bradford team.”

Preparatio­ns during the week were hampered by illness to star man Scotty Hendricks, but he recovered enough to start the contest and quickly shot seven points to get the ball rolling.

But Dragons stayed in touch before a 6-0 run pushed them ahead, only for Tim Gill to give the visitors a slender 19-16 advantage by the end of the first quarter.

The contest stayed tight during the second with three trebles apiece, including two for captain Danny Carter while a drive from Sydney Donaldson saw him open his account to put Rockets 36-28 ahead.

Bradford then responded to reduce the arrears to a single point at 41-40 by half-time following an 11-2 run.

They followed that with an 8-2 run at the start of the third period before pushing clear at 55-46 to leave Reading in real danger of a second straight year of early playoff exits.

Despite a hand injury following a heavy fall, Hendricks returned to the court to try and rescue the contest and fired in seven more points before Soukup began to stamp his authority on the semifinal.

A packed Rivermead sensed a big comeback as they entered the final stanza 63-67 ahead, despite Hendricks’ injury forcing him to sit out the closing stages.

Fellow American Tim Gill bagged a personal haul of 11 points while Soukup continued to find the target as momentum built and Rockets got back in front at 70-69 before they eventually cruised across the winning line.

Attention quickly switches to trying to find a way past Hemel, with both sides claiming one win apiece in the regular league fixtures this season.

“We must perform better if we are to beat Hemel this weekend,” admitted Pena Garces.

“Our game plan must be watertight, our intent and communicat­ion exceptiona­l in as many moments as possible and our execution on point and this is what we have been striving for in our practices.

“It’s a huge game and one we cannot wait to play.”

Rockets will be without Hendricks for the trip to Hertfordsh­ire (7pm) after an x-ray confirmed he broke his hand against Bradford with teenagers Inigo Perez Baena and Adrian Nosa Castillo in line for a bigger role.

Rockets top scorers: Soukup 26 points, Gill 15, Carter 14, Hendricks 14.

 ??  ?? Declan Soukup assesses his options
Declan Soukup assesses his options

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