Rockets win one of two on tough northern road trip
BASKETBALL: The Rockhampton Rockets will head into Friday's showdown with QBL frontrunners Mackay with plenty of confidence after an encouraging northern road trip.
The Rockets scored a 95-90 win over the Cairns Marlins before going down to reigning champions Townsville Heat 96-83 on Saturday night.
The Rockhampton Cyclones also went one and one, beating the Marlins before suffering a heavy loss against the Heat.
Rockets' coach Neal Tweedy said he was proud of the way his players "stood up” at the weekend.
"In the end we're probably content splitting that round trip, it's always hard. I thought we played very well against Cairns and played well in patches against Townsville,” he said.
"We used a lot of energy to get that win in Cairns on the first night, a lot of our starters played big minutes.
"We prepared well for Townsville but their extra size probably hurt us. They out-rebounded us 15-3 in the fourth quarter and we just couldn't get in front.”
The Rockets got off to a flying start against Cairns, shooting to a 16-point lead in the first quarter.
"We were out of the blocks very well which we were very happy with. I think we went into half time up 11,” Tweedy said.
"They made a good run at us in the second half. They got in front for the first time with about 35 seconds to go but we executed well out of a timeout to get a quick basket and then closed the game by coming up with a defensive stop.
"Full credit to the guys - they executed well.”
Tweedy said the Rockets did well to keep themselves in the contest against Townsville but a lack of size and fatigue ultimately took its toll.
"We got ourselves into a hole against Townsville but we got back to level in the fourth but probably just didn't have the legs or the size to get over the top of a very good Townsville team,” he said.
American import Malcolm Bernard, who led the scoring in both games, was sensational against Cairns, while Jack Lopez hit top form at the weekend, landing some big three-pointers at critical times against Townsville.
Tweedy said the Rockets faced another "huge test” against Mackay, who have won their four opening games.
"We've really got to work on our defence. When we're playing well defensively it creates easy baskets for us offensively,” he said.
"We need to get defensive stops and create transition basketball from our defence, that allows us to run.
"We're as confident as you can be against a team that's 4 and 0.
"We know how great a team they are but we're still hard to beat on our home floor.
"I think we're playing well enough to cause an upset.”
Friday's game starts at 8.30pm at Hegvold Stadium. The Cyclones are in action from 6.30pm.
- Rockhampton Rockets d Cairns Marlins 95-90
- Townsville Heat d Rockhampton Rockets 96-83
- Rockhampton Cyclones d Cairns Dolphins 94-83
- Townsville Flames d Rockhampton Cyclones 101-67