Rockets zoom to win
A FITTER and stronger Republik Nightclub Rockhampton Rockets picked up on Saturday night where they left off in season 2010.
Point guard Peni Nasalo suited up for his second season in Rockets colours to lead the reigning QBL champions to a convincing round one 100-71 win over Bundaberg at Hegvold Stadium on Saturday night.
The Rockets dominated the Bundaberg side physically with the home team’s big men continually out-muscling the smaller Bundaberg players in the paint.
New recruits Travis Reed, Ryan Jeffries, and Pero Vasiljeric along with veterans Tony Campbell and Paul Scott combined to pull down more offensive rebounds than Bundaberg could manage in defence making it difficult for the away team to prevent the Rockets from scoring.
Nasalo entered the match struggling with a relapsed ankle injury, but looked at ease moving the ball through the court.
After completing the warm-up and the opening minutes of the match, Nasalo, who spent 33 minutes on court, said he wasn’t certain he’d be right to play.
“On Wednesday I wasn’t too confident, but Thursday it looked like it was coming up a lot better and most of the swelling had cleared up,” he said.
“It’s still a bit swollen now (post-match), but I got through alright. I’ll just ice it up and see.
“I’ll give it a few days rest and see how it pulls up.”
Going into the contest, Nasalo never expected to win as convincingly as they did up against a Bundaberg side which recruited heavily in the off-season.
“No, not at all. We expected it to be a dog fight, actually,” he said.
“We got on top from the start and the crowd lifted everybody.
“Once we got on a roll, I thought the game was over, they just we
ren’t there mentally.
“We are probably one of the only teams that do 10 weeks of preseason and it showed in the end. I never realised we were that fit.”
The high-flying Jeffries, who joined the club during the off-season from Ipswich, top scored for the home side in their 29-point win.
Jeffries who finished with 24 points was well supported by Rockets’ big men Reed (23 points) and Vasiljeric (16 points).
A self-described “confidence player”, Jeffries opened his scoring account for the Rockets with a string of three-pointers and settled into the match from there, with the vocal home crowd pushing him along.
“The crowd was ridiculous. I was pretty nervous to start off with but I hit my first shot and all the nerves were gone,” he said.
“Whenever I hit my first shot I’m good to go and my first shot went down.”
The Rockets controlled the match from start to finish, with the lead extended to its biggest margin of 33 late in the third quarter.
Less than 36 hours after arriving in Rockhampton, Chuck Long didn’t look out of place in the Rockets line-up, and Jeffries is confident the former Hobart Chargers star will only get better.
“For someone who’s just come in and been with us for a day he did what we needed to do,” Nasalo said.