Rockets celebrate a drought-breaking QABL state championship after beating Townsville 97-80.
Rockets celebrate a drought-breaking QABL state championship after beating Townsville 97-80.

Rockets running riot

A FIRED-UP Ben Thompson yesterday wound back the clock to deliver the Rockhampton Stadium Nightclub Rockets their first QABL state championship in 12 years.

The Rockets veteran, who will retire at the end of his team's national finals assault, starred in the Rockets' 97-80 grand final victory over the Townsville Heat to claim the Warren Berginey Cup in front of a packed Hegvold Stadium.

In an inspirational performance, Thompson hit a game-high 30 points, including six-of-eight three-pointers, collected eight rebounds and three assists on his way to MVP honours.

The Rockets booked their place in yesterday's decider after a hard-fought 96-85 win over the Brisbane Capitals on Saturday night while the Heat were too hot for South West, winning 100-76.

The Rockets now face Waratah League champions the Sutherland Sharks the team which ended their campaign last season in a national quarter-final in Sydney this weekend.

With two championship rings to his name, Thompson declared yesterday's triumph "the best".

"I've won a couple of these but that's the best," he screamed. Thompson was just one of the many heroes for the Rockets.

His partner in crime, Rhys Martin, finished with 27 points yesterday while Stephen Weigh, who had 21 points, produced an incredible defensive performance on Townsville captain and gun Michael Cedar.

Weigh restricted Cedar one of the competition's sharpest shooters to just 19 points in a battle which featured plenty of fireworks.

A three-pointer by Cedar three seconds before half-time kept Townsville in the contest, trailing the home side 45-34.

The Rockets, who outscored Townsville in every quarter, ran riot in the third quarter and had the home crowd on their feet when Martin threw the last pass for American import Ryan McDade to slam home.

But the loud and proud crowd saved their biggest cheer with one minute and 29 seconds to go in the match when Rockets captain Darren "Richo" Richardson and fellow team stalwart Tony "TC" Campbell took to the court.

Richardson, who was a member of the championship-winning Rockets team from 1996, praised everyone involved with the team after the match.

Rockets coach Neal Tweedy, an assistant coach 12 years ago, said the Rockets of 2008 were the greatest team he had coached and had a chance to achieve something special with national glory.

"We had a lot of contributors today we had guys contribute offensively and guys defensively," he said.

"We're going to celebrate it's been a long time coming and switch it on again on Tuesday."

On Saturday night, the Rockets were pushed all-the-way by a Dusty Rychart inspired Brisbane outfit, who led 48-43 at the main break.

But a McDade slam dunk and lay-up to start the third quarter launched the Rockets' fightback before a Martin three-pointer put the home side back in front 50-48.

Leading 84-77 with five minutes on the clock in the final term, Thompson lifted the roof off Hegvold with a match-winning three-pointer to seal the semi-final win.

Martin hit a game-high 25 points, nine assists and six rebounds while his Wollongong Hawks NBL team-mate Rychart was Brisbane's best, finishing with 23 points and 15 rebounds.

As well as being crowned the competition's No.1 in steals yesterday, Martin was also named in the QABL's all-star team, alongside former Rockets Cameron Tragardh and Thalo Green.

In the first semi, Townsville outscored South West 46-24 in the second half on their way to victory.

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