Rockhampton Rockets reload finals campaign

THE McDONALDS Rockhampton Rockets have reloaded their 2015 finals campaign with a resounding 107-86 win over the Brisbane Capitals at Hegvold Stadium on Friday night. The victory secures the Rockets a home floor quarter final against Gladstone Power this weekend.

The Rockets went into the game against the Capitals with their backs squarely against the wall. If they lost, they may have missed play-offs, an unheard of proposition for the two time premiers at the start of the season. So, it was a must-win match against Brisbane, who had lost just twice this season.

From the tip-off it was obvious the Rockets had turned up to play. In the pre-game huddle on the bench an animated Rockets coach Neal Tweedy, who was obviously feeling the pressure, told his players: "It is all about defence tonight guys, all about what we do defensively."

His players took note. It was a sweet start, Rockets co-captain Mitch Philp found his range early to open the score and the Rockets were switched on. Despite this, Brisbane were a high-quality opposition and it was going to be a case of the Rockets staying with them and preventing a scoring break-out in the early stages.

At the five minute mark Brisbane led 13-9. The Rockets were strong in defence but critical shots were not dropping for them. At 3.44 minutes Brisbane had skipped out to an 18-9 lead and Tweedy called time out.

Brad Williamson dropped a beautiful three-pointer just after the resumption, one of many important shots the co-captain would make throughout the game, but Brisbane immediately replied. With Peni Nasalo on the floor the Rockets went up a gear. It was a tough, tense and tight quarter but at its end the Rockets had taken the lead 25-23.

It was basket for basket in the second quarter and Glenn Scott and young Jackson McTier were on court to give the Rockets different options across the floor. McTier especially bolstered the defence. Then Chehales Tapscott, who had been relatively quiet, stepped up the intensity and the Rockets had ignition.

At 4.05 minutes a desperate Brisbane called time out, trailing by seven. "Work here" came the call from Tweedy as play resumed and the Rockets responded. Their pressure was building, as was their momentum and Brisbane were now missing their shots. At half-time the Rockets led 58-46.

From there, the Rockets were never headed. Brisbane increasingly struggled to score, with the Rockets' outstanding defence securing them possession to go down court and score themselves. By three quarter time they led by 19 and at full-time had secured a convincing 21 point win.

"We had no choice but to lift tonight," Philp said.

"We didn't want to say goodbye to our American mates and our young players going overseas on a losing note.

"And we did lift. We are booked in for finals."

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