READING ROCKETS came close to toppling league favourites, but were narrowly beaten in their behind closed doors match at the John Madejski Academy.
With Sam Toluwase away on forces service and Ben Dixon still side-lined with an ankle injury, Head Coach Alan Keane knew he’d be depending on his young academy players with whom he has such trust.
And how true that turned out as American point guard and Rockets playmaker O’Showen Williams turned his ankle in the fourth minute.
Rockets inauspicious start had been capitalised by Storm as they hit 6 trebles in the opening quarter to take a 38-25 advantage into the second period.
Chuck Duru started the fightback as he stroked a treble then drove and scored also hitting the free throw before working inside to cut Storm’s lead.
Leome Francis hit a buzzer beater and though Duru hit another treble and Reis Pinnock went coast to coast , a brace of Storm trebles and frequent visits to the penalty stripe saw Rockets behind 46-67 at the interval.
Coach Keane made it absolutely clear to his inexperienced team exactly what he wanted on the court for the remainder of the game , and how his team implemented it as they took the third quarter by 33-19 with Sam Grant hitting key trebles from the wing and the top of the key.
Pinnock hit the first of his pair of trebles off a Duru dish, then Francis took an assist off Grant who scored from downtown to reduce the deficit to 68-79. Rockets had been truly ignited and oozed confidence as they continued their fightback to be just seven points adrift as the final quarter beckoned.
Francis got Rockets nearer but a mix up gifted Hemel 5 easy points but Pinnock lifted his team with a great display of offense and defensive duties as drove and scored, gave assists to Grant and Francis as well as hitting a pull up treble to keep the game very live and competitive at 93 to 102 with four minutes to go.
However a period of no score for either side and cramp catching up with Francis, the last two minutes were just a step too far for the gallant Rockets though Pinnock tried right through to the end as he stroked a treble, made an assist and stole to score but Storm took the win 112-103.
Though disappointed with the loss and recognising that the 17 turnovers were critical to the defeat, the second half was such an enthralling improvement as Rockets took it 57-45 as Pinnock and Francis had double doubles. Pinnock with 29 pts and 13 rebounds as Francis hit 27 pts and took down 10 rebounds with Grant majestic with 24 points.