Built on a great defensive effort for the first half in particular, the North Men’s Premier League team led the game against Eastern for all but 28 seconds, finally running out winners by 9 pointson Saturday night at Hillcrest. The Rocket boys built the lead to as many as 19 during the 2nd and 3rd quarters, but some unnecessary turnovers and loss of composure during the last, saw the Eastern Mavericks get it back to 7 with 55 seconds to go, before successful free throws by Adam Schild and Tom Rowe secured the win, leaving the boys very well placed at 9 wins and 3 losses going into the mid-season break.


Despite Eastern struggling a little this year, having won only 2 games, Coach Hawkes and the team were wary of the talent they had available and were especially keen to maintain the unbeaten record at home !! The instructions were simple, play our game, rebound the ball hard, look to run when the opportunity presents, and run our offences in the half court. Defensively, be aggressive, communicate and help your team mates. It is normally a target of the team to keep the opposition to 17 points or less in a quarter and the 1st proved the boys were ready to go defensively. They kept Eastern to just 13 whilst scoring 18 themselves. As is the case with most opposition teams now, Eastern were doing their best to restrict Aric’s influence, so it was good to see everyone contribute at both ends of the floor. Leroy’s 2 offensive rebounds and 2 assists were important, whilst Lucky’s two 3 pointers were a great start. The good news was the quarter time scores were 18-13 our way, but the rebound count (despite the good start) was 8-13 to Eastern.  Interestingly Jordan Dodman (Eastern’s ex 36er) only had 1, so the biggest threat was contained but their other players had chipped in well. The bad news was John Wernham only played the first minute and 14 seconds, before collecting 2 fouls, having to spend some extended time on the bench.


The 2nd quarter was all Rockets as the boys kept the visitors scoreless for the first 4 minutes 13 seconds whilst adding 8 points themselves (score now 26-13). Having re-entered the game, John W quickly racked up 6 points during this period and was dominating in the paint. The boys were rebounding better (13-10 for the quarter) triggering their offence and quickly built the lead to 19 points (37-18). This allowed Coach Hawkes to go to his bench introducing Isaac Nyembo and Jake Crammond for some valuable court time, but Eastern, despite being well behind, hung in and kept themselves just within reach at half time (39-23).  John had an incredible quarter with 13 points, 6 rebounds (4 offensive), and a big block, whilst Lucky now up to 8 points, and a steal, and Leroy with 7 points and 6 rebounds, were other statistical leaders at the half. Keeping Eastern to just 23 points was a great team defensive effort and an indicator of what the boys are capable of.


Having dominated the 2nd quarter, the expectation was the boys would continue on, but to their credit Eastern fought it out. The 3rd proved to be an arm wrestle with both teams scoring 19 points to finish at 58-42 North’s way at the three quarter time break. John Wernham scored the first 4 points and looked set for another big quarter but momentum swung and the teams traded baskets off and on for the remainder of the term. Eastern did manage to get within 13 at one stage, but the final two baskets to Lucky and Tom Rowe, saw the lead back to where it started at 16 when the siren went. On a positive note, we had only 7 turnovers, but unfortunately we had fallen behind in the rebound count 33-35 (John 9, Leroy 9, Aric 5, Pikey 5).  With a 16 point lead and 10 minutes to play, an opportunity to finish the game strongly, and give the Coach the chance to “clear the bench” perhaps ??


The 4th quarter was a little disappointing, with 4 turnovers in the last few minutes (total of 7 for the quarter) resulting in Eastern going on a 5-13 run getting them back to 7 with some 55 seconds to go. Whilst it can be argued the result was never in doubt, it would have been nice to finish with a flourish and really make a statement. However at the end of the day a 79-70 win, taking us to 9 and 3 is a fantastic platform on which to build for the rest of the season, and hopefully a pathway to finals !! On the positive side everyone got involved and proved to be a threat when other avenues of scoring were closed. Final statistics show Lucky finished the top scorer with 20 (2 assists and 2 steals), John had 17 (9 rebounds and a block), Aric 13 (6 rebounds, 4 assists), Tom 10 (3 rebounds, 6 assists and a steal), Leroy 7 (9 rebounds and 3 assists), Adam 6 (8 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist and a block), Brett 4 (1 rebound), and Pikey 2 points (5 rebounds).


No game over the long weekend (given there are junior championships in Melbourne). Next game is against Woodville on the 13th of June at St Clair.


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