Basketball: Rockets roar louder than Thunder

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After a two-week gap, Thunder travelled to BUCS and National League rivals Reading Rockets in search of a win that would confirm their top spot. But they went down 70-66 in a close-fought encounter.

Last season’s assistant coach Dan Hills made a welcome return to the Thunder bench.

The opening stanza was low key with both teams struggling to find any rhythm in a typically-cold sports hall.

But Thunder, through Chiwuzie and Cahill, by the end of the first half had imposed themselves and contributed to an early seven-point advantage.

The second stanza saw Thunder extend their lead and look dominant all over the court, taking a game high 17-point lead after a fade-away two from Godliman and a three-pointer from Johnson.

However a sloppy last two minutes saw team fouls and two turnovers give Reading a morale boost heading into the half-time break just 11 points behind.

The second half, generally Thunder’s strongest, started badly with two sloppy turnovers and subsequent conversions from a rejuvenated Rockets team.

An 11-point unanswered run led by Platt saw the scores levelled midway through the third quarter.

Despite Thunder shaking off this poor start, Rockets took a two-point advantage heading into the final stanza.

The fourth quarter was a close affair with both teams trading the lead. Chiwuzie was dominating inside for Thunder but Rockets kept making their free throws.

A game-high six-point lead for Reading was reduced to two as strong plays from Chiwuzie under the basket set up a tense finish. Reading, however, ran the clock down and converted their free throws to close out the match.

Top scorer for Thunder was Chiwuzie (28), while Platt (23) took the honours for Reading.

Thunder secretary Sid Fletcher said: “Letting a 17-point lead slip has cost us for the second time this season.

“A sloppy five minutes before and after half-time did the damage. Clearly we are a talented team but at this level we need to be switched on for the entire match.”

THUNDER: Chiwuzie, Johnston, Cahill, Nyathi, Jones. Fazackerley, Da Silva, Godliman, Hield, Johnson.