THEY'RE the giant killers who kept the Rockets' hopes of hosting the finals alive.

Northside Wizards are also the side that now stand in their way.

The McDonald's Rockhampton Rockets face Northside Wizards in Brisbane tonight in the first leg of their QBL men's Round 9 double-header.

In what Rockets coach Neal Tweedy describes as the closest competition in recent years, Northside is one side flying high after claiming scalps on both legs of their northern road trip last weekend.

Typically, the northern teams have dominated the QBL men's competition, but Tweedy believed the southern teams had bridged the gap in 2014.

Eight of the last 10 championship-winning teams have come from the north.

Southern Districts Spartans, who now play in the SEABL competition, were the last south Queensland team to win the QBL men's title after they defeated the Rockets in the 2006 decider.

The Wizards orchestrated Cairns Marlins' second defeat of the 2014 season last weekend before backing up to dish out a 79-58 win over Townsville on Saturday night.

The Wizards are a side which can go on scoring runs, typified by their 27-11 run in the final quarter against Cairns last Friday.

Their successful road trip came as no surprise to Tweedy.

"They're one of the good teams in this competition," Tweedy said.

"I expected Northside to go up there and win. I just think the southern teams are underestimated by some people in this league.

"They're probably a better team this year than they were last year, and we only beat them by nine points in the semi-final last year."

Tweedy was pleased with his side's attacking ability, which saw them defeat Gold Coast Rollers 110-59 last weekend, but was critical of their defence.

The Rockets have scored more points than any other team in the league in 2014, but currently rank eighth in defence.

They're currently scoring 100.6 points per match, only behind Suncoast Clippers (101.25), however their defence trails league-leader Mackay, which concede on average 72 points per game, Northside (74.5), Brisbane (79), Townsville (79), Cairns (81.38), South West Metro (84) and Bundaberg (84).

"Our team has been built on defence in recent years, but we're giving up too many points at the moment," Tweedy said.

"It's (defence) the one area that we have to focus on. We can score points, but we've just got to work harder to defend them.

"I'd like to get off to a much better start (tonight). Every road game we've had we've been down after five minutes."

A pair of youngsters who have recently returned from college stints in the US lead Northside's charge tonight.

Mitchell McCarron, 22, and Nicholas Kay, 21, and 23-year-old Tidjane Diop delivered on the side's trip north last week.

McCarron top-scored with 23 and 16 against Cairns and Townsville, respectively, Kay added 19 and 10, while Diop also added 16 in Northside's win over Townsville.



Rockhampton Rockets v Northside Wizards 8pm tonight at South Pine Sports Complex

Rockhampton Rockets v Suncoast Clippers 7pm tomorrow night at Maroochydore Basketball Stadium

LADDER: Mackay 83.33, Rockhampton 77.78, Cairns 75, Suncoast Clippers 62.5, Brisbane 62.5, Northside 62.5, South West Metro 57.14, Townsville 50, Bundaberg 50, Ipswich 44.44, Gold Coast Rollers 30, Toowoomba 11.11, Gladstone 0.

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