The North Adelaide Men’s Premier League Team are out of the finals race losing by 2 points (78-80), in what was a very exciting elimination game against Sturt on Saturday night in front of a huge crowd at Hillcrest. Having defeated the same team a week ago (a result that determined the finals venue), the boys played their hearts out, looked out of it, being 7 points down with 1 minute 23 seconds to go, yet (as has happened several times this season) managed to get it to a single point with 6 seconds on the clock and give themselves a couple of opportunities to steal the win. In the end Sturt hung on, and the boys despite being bitterly disappointed on the night, can hold their heads high given the massive improvement from where they were 12 months ago. The team has become a united group (under Coach Hawkes and Assistant Steve Denton), has worked very hard for 9 months, and is confident the journey is far from over.   


The game started like many finals do, with a little apprehension on both sides, and a number of unforced errors. The Rocket boys were certainly finding it difficult with 3 early turnovers and some average shooting, but defensively were doing a good job on Sturt’s known scorers. Early going saw the scores at 8-8 with Lucky and John having 4 points each and as expected Sturt were making life difficult for Aric, denying him the ball at every opportunity. The visitors then settled down and went on a 16-5 run to give them a 12 point lead with 4 seconds on the clock but (as has happened many times this season ) Aric hit a massive 3 pointer to reduce the lead to 9 on the buzzer. John led the way with 6 points (and 3 rebounds), Aric had 5 points (2 rebounds and an assist), and Lucky had 4 points (and an offensive rebound). It was a little concerning that no one else had scored at this stage, given that was one of the keys to a win, but it was early days. Quarter time scores were 15-24.


Defensively the second quarter was a good one, restricting Sturt to just 14 points, in a determined effort by all concerned. It was also successful offensively, with North scoring 20 points, reducing the 9 point margin to just 3 at the half time break.  The boys started to get some transition going and shooting overall improved to almost 50% for the quarter (9 of 20), as they looked to run at every opportunity, and were a little more disciplined in their ball movement in offence. Adam Schild had an excellent 6 minutes off the bench with 6 points and 2 offensive rebounds, and Lucky got himself into the lane several times for layups and hit a big 3 for a 7 point quarter and 11 points overall. Interestingly Sturt had only 2 scorers of note in Rawson with 13 and Reed with 15. Half time scores were 35-38, with Lucky’s 11 points supported by John with 7 points (8 rebounds and 2 massive blocks), Adam with 6 points (5 rebounds),  Aric with 5 points (5 rebounds), and Leroy with 4 points (7 rebounds). One major concern was the 3 fouls Aric had picked up, and he had to be taken out with several minutes to go in an effort to ensure he was available for the 2nd half.


The 3rd quarter saw the North boys hit the front for the first time since early in the game, with a 10-3 run (score now 45-41) and it looked like the tide had turned, but Sturt to their credit refused to lie down, fighting back to hit the front themselves as the teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter.  Aric picked up his 4th foul with a couple of minutes to go but was left in, in the hope he could manage the situation himself, and thankfully he did. At three quarter time, all of the statistics confirmed the closeness of the game. North led the rebound count 35-32, just 1 steal each was recorded, Sturt had just 3 turnovers to North’s 7, and efficiency was 57-53 North’s way. Lucky continued to lead all scorers for us with 14, Aric had 12, Leroy 10 (following a big quarter), John 9 and Adam 8. Three quarter time score was 55-56 and it was going to be another close one !!


The last was a reflection of many games played by the men this year, with teams trading baskets, plenty of scoring, some long 3 point bombs, and an exciting finish (even though this time it wasn’t the one we wanted). John Wernham scored the first 4 points for us (matched by Sturt) then Aric hit a long 3 pointer and added a free throw to have us in front (63-62) at the 8 minute mark, and things were looking good !!  But Sturt came back , the teams again traded baskets and with 3 minutes to go, the scores were tied at 72 each. Then unfortunately Sturt went on a 7-0 run and managed to get themselves in front 72-79 with a minute and 35 seconds on the clock and it looked over, but history shows that the Rocket boys just don’t give up !!!!!  Aric stepped up and scored a big 3, then he stole the ball from the Sturt guard, and completed a layup to bring it back to 2 points (77-79) with 1 minute 7 seconds left. The crowd was roaring and the place was jumping ! North then missed their next three shots which could have tied the game, but the ball just would not drop. Skilfully Leroy secured an offensive rebound on the last of these misses and with 6 seconds on the clock went to the line for two free throws to tie the game.  He made the first and missed the second so it was necessary to foul to get the ball back. Sturt made one of two of the subsequent free throws and with less than 5 seconds on the clock North being 2 down, had the ball (no timeouts) and got it into Aric’s hands. But their luck had run out, the 3 point shot looked good but just didn’t drop and the game was over 78-80.


Final statistics showed another excellent team effort. Aric had 26 points (scored 14 in the last), 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal; Lucky had 16 points and 3 rebounds; Leroy had 13 points, 13 rebounds 1 assist and 1 steal; John had 13 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist and 3 blocks; Adam had 8 points and 5 rebounds; Tom (who played under duress having “jagged” a calf muscle at training) had 2 points, 4 rebounds and an assist.


A sad end to what has been a great season for the boys. They have come from 3 wins last year to a playoff spot this year and with any sort of luck who knows. They beat every team in the competition at least once and had some memorable games, (who could forget the ANZAC clash with Norwood) certainly keeping the crowd interested with an exciting brand of basketball. So for the men’s team, it is time for a rest, then rebuild for next year with pre-season training starting probably earlier than ever !!


And good luck to the lady Rockets, who play Norwood at MARS this week.


Thank you for reading these reviews, I hope you liked this innovation this year, written in an effort to keep everyone who can’t make the games informed. See you in 2016 !!!!!!!!!!!!



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