Rockets lost out away in the play-off Championship as sharp shooting Riders capitalised to end Rockets season earlier than they hoped.
This was destined to be a tough game with the injury to Jaz Bains making him unavailable but Rockets hit the University court running as O’Showen Williams stroked an early treble, Sam Toluwase made a hook score and Leome Francis worked inside to finish.
When Ben Dixon took a charge and Reis Pinnock made a block, the two big power forwards Francis and Toluwase gave Rockets a 13-6 early advantage causing Riders to take a time-out.
This didn’t stop Rockets as Pinnock hit four quick points with a floater and drive before defending well to deflect a Riders pass out of play and stop them scoring.
Developing young power forward Kivuvu Live joined the party as he scored from an offensive rebound giving Rockets a 19-10 first quarter lead.
Riders responded with six quick points against Chuck Duru’s score before Toluwase hit a mid-range shot. 35-38 was a true reflection at the interval of how competitive the game had been and was to remain till the final buzzer.
Nearly all Rockets’ best work was being done inside as both power forwards caused major concerns for Riders.
For many minutes the lead swapped with every score but an 8-0 Riders run gave them the initiative and a 56-45 advantage.
Duru stopped the rot and Dixon sent an assist to Francis to finish but being in team foul trouble saw Riders open up a 62-49 lead going into the final quarter.
Though winning that period by 19- 13 it wasn’t enough to see Rockets progress in the Play-off Championship despite the efforts of Francis, Toluwase and Pinnock who worked tirelessly to try and reduce the deficit.
Williams hit his second treble of the afternoon coupled to a Toluwase brace from the free throw line which saw Rockets just eight points behind within ninety seconds of the re-start but Riders traded baskets until Williams scored.
Toluwase reduced the deficit further and then sent an assist to Pinnock to see Rockets in with a chance of victory at just five points adrift at 63-68 with two minutes twenty to go.
Despite Sam Grant scoring, Riders went to the line as Rockets were in team foul trouble and saw the game out 75-68.