Rockets burn Heat
COUNT the Republik Nightclub Rockets out of finals contention at your peril.
That was the warning on Saturday as the Rockets used their Hegvold Stadium stronghold as the springboard to get back into the QBL race with a convincing 86-72 win over Townsville.
The visitors may be known as the Heat but in the end it was they who felt the warmth as the Rockets, backed by their vociferous fans, applied the blowtorch and found Townsville wanting.
Down in the first quarter the Rockets bounced back to win the next three quarters and present Chuck Long with the perfect going away present.
Long joined the Rockets days before the start of the 2011 QBL season as a “stand-in” for Stephen Weigh who arrives back in Rockhampton on Thursday. With Mitch Philp back on court for the Rockhampton team there was far more energy in the side with Philp looking every bit as good as he did when he suited up in last year's championship run.
While Todd Blanchfield with 22 points and Kelvin Robertson with 17 were the game's two highest scorers, the Rockets spread the load around with five players getting into double figures.
With his main players back, coach Neal Tweedy was also able to rotate his team and give similar court time to all the players on the team list.
However, it was Long who was the night's crowd-pleaser with a fired up display at both ends of the court, taking defensive rebounds and then delighting the crowd with his trademark slam dunk.
“It was his last game and Chuck has done everything I asked for,” Tweedy said.
“ It is just disappointing for him to leave us with two wins from five (games).”
While the Rockets are still not in the perfect position to launch a defence of their 2010 title, the side still has the opportunity to battle through to the finals.
“Now we need some form when we are on the road,” Tweedy said.
“You don't beat teams at the top level with an under-strength squad.”
Last week the Rockets had players missing and suffered the consequences, losing both matches. Philp was all-action and the coach was happy with his work creating turn overs as well as the energy he adds to the attack.
Big Travis Reed continues to get better as his fitness improves following his lay off prior to joining the Rockets.
“He got seven from nine with his field goals,” Tweedy added.
The coach is realistic about the Rockets chances for the rest of the season saying the team has to look at winning every game and hope the top teams start knocking each other over.
“There is some good depth in the league,” he said.
The Rockets are at home on Friday against Brisbane and play five of their next six games at Hegvold Stadium before setting off on a difficult, and crucial, road trip to Cairns and Townsville.