On the last day of the 2011/2012 BBL regular season the Glasgow Rocks made sure of a winning record by beating the Durham Wildcats 87-66 at the Kelvin Hall on Sunday evening. The triumph gave the Rocks a 16-14 record, while the Wildcats finished their inaugural season in the BBL with a 3-27 record that somewhat belies the talent and fighting spirit that they have shown throughout the year.
In a game that had a distinctly end of season feel to it, Rocks coach Sterling Davis saw it as an opportunity to rotate his squad so as to keep his key players fresh for their trip to Plymouth on Thursday for the first leg of their play-off quarter final tie.
Prior to the game, Rocks guard Mychal Green was presented with the team MVP award, voted for by the fans, something that the 29 year old admitted was a tremendous honour, commenting that ‘it makes me feel really good…the fans are the ones that pay money to watch the games and that’s who we play for.’ His coach, meanwhile, was also delighted with the performances of the Green Machine in his first season in Scotland, adding that ‘Mike’s been great for us all year…there’s been times when Mychal’s carried us as a team.’
The Rocks started off the brighter of the two teams, taking an early 8-0 lead thanks to three pointers from Murray and Davis, both of whom shot better than 80% from the field. The Rocks set the tempo early, with hustle defence and a quick breaking offence, and the Wildcats seemed to be unable to cope in the early period. As has been the case all season though, Durham were hardly going to curl up and lie down. David Galvan and Ralph Bucci began to take control of the game, with the duo making some beautiful passes and that Mario Flaherty got on the end of, and eventually the Wildcats eroded the Rocks lead.
With two minutes remaining in the first quarter, the BBL debutants took the lead for the one and only time on the back of two free throws from Flaherty, however the Rocks fought back and closed the quarter out with an 8-3 run to take a 23-19 lead into the second stanza.
Coach Davis decided to go to his bench on a more regular basis than usual, giving the likes of Malnieks and Richards a decent amount of game time, while Huffor led the game with 21 points. That, in many ways, proved the difference between the two sides. Glavan and Bucci, in particular, are an outstanding duo, and the Wildcats have three or four players that could earn respectable game time in any team in the BBL, but they simply lack the depth and the experience at this level when they have to go to the bench, while the Rocks were able to bring on the likes of Huffor and Wedemire.
The second quarter seemed something of a three point contest for Durham as Bucci and Glavan nailed two a piece, but ultimately they couldn’t stop the Rocks at the other end of the court as the home team dominated the rebound battle and opened up a ten point advantage on the back of Sterl’s neat lay-up in traffic with 1:27 remaining in the half. As in the first quarter, however, Durham fought back, and behind the arc bombs from Glavan and Bucci, the latter coming at the buzzer, narrowed the lead to just three points going into the half-time break.
In the second-half, however, it was all one way traffic. The Rocks started the third quarter with a two pointer from Davis followed by a terrific court length pass from DeAundrae Cranston (of all people) to a wide open Gareth Murray for an easy two.
With Durham having played what Coach Elderkin admitted was an energy sapping game the night before, a valiant defeat to the Guildford Heat, it was perhaps no surprise that the Rocks, with their deeper and more talented bench, eventually ran out comfortable winners. But that is to take nothing away from the effort and determination of the Wildcats team, who clearly gave it their all throughout the game.
The Rocks raced out to a ten point lead, for the second time in the game, with three minutes left of the third quarter, but yet again, the Wildcats fought back and reduced the deficit to a single basket, before a three pointer from veteran guard E.J. Harrison and a pair of two pointers from Danny Huffor opened the gap back up to double figures heading into the final quarter.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they fell apart in the fourth as the Rocks eventually ran out winners by 21 points. Coach Davis was adamant after the game, however, that the Wildcats had been a terrific credit to the league, stating that ‘I’ve always thought highly of them since the first time that we played them,’ before further adding that ‘I think they will only improve.’
With the game in the bag, Davis threw on Bunyan, Malnieks and Richards at the death, and it was the 27 year old guard Richards that provided the fans with one last breathtaking moment was he came from seemingly nowhere to reject a Wildcats basket inside the final minute, before going down the other end of the court and nailing a two pointer. With Davis having commented that he would like to keep on to the entire roster for next season, Richards certainly would have done himself no harm with that effort.
While we say goodbye to Durham for the 2011/2012 campaign, the Rocks face the Plymouth Raiders in the first round of the play-offs, with the first leg being on the south coast on Thursday before the return fixture at the Kelvin Hall on Sunday. Both Coach Davis and team MVP Mychal Green were adamant that while Plymouth may have had the better of the Rocks this season, it’s a whole new ball game in the play-offs.
An outstanding all-round display from the men in blue gave the Glasgow Rocks an unlikely, but richly deserved, 85-77 victory at an electric Kelvin Hall against their bitter rivals from the north-east of England on Sunday evening and with it sent a message to the rest of the British Basketball League.
With the return of captain and lynchpin E.J. Harrison, coach Davis must have felt like a kid in a candy store, as his entire roster was available to him, something that we all know has been a rarity this season. His team certainly didn’t disappoint, showing the sort of performance that they are capable of producing when firing on all cylinders.
It was an emotional game for the veteran Rocks guard, playing for the first time since the death of his father, but he led his troops with the professionalism, skill and class that we have all come to expect from the former UConn Huskie every time he takes the court and he ultimately finished with 14 points, six rebounds and five assists.
But it was teammate DeAundrae Cranston who really stole the show with a season high 25 points on an incredible 11-of-12 shooting, with his only miss coming from behind the arc. Although the big centre was quick to point out the importance of having E.J. back in the line-up, describing the 35 year old as ‘the floor general…with him we have a real good chance of winning.’ Cranston was coming off a double-double in last week’s defeat against Plymouth and has been frustratingly inconsistent at time this season, but coach Davis was quick to challenge the centre to reproduce performances like this one on a more regular basis saying that ‘I’m glad he played that way against Newcastle, but at the same time…it’s so frustrating cos the potential that this guy has…nobody can really stop him,’ before stating that he was looking for DeAundrae to ‘carry us at times during the course of the game.’
The Rocks got off to an electric start, forcing Newcastle to call a timeout within the first three minutes of the game, as the home side took a 12-2 lead playing an up tempo offensive style, spreading the ball and utilising Cranston’s size in the paint. The Eagles though, led by their guard combo of Paul Gause and Joe Chapman, clawed away at the Rocks lead and eventually gave Newcastle the lead with 2.30 left in the first quarter on a monster three pointer from Gause.
A pulsating first quarter ended on a steal and breakaway lay-up from Mychal Green to give the Rocks a 28-24 lead. Remarkably, the Eagles had shot 59% in the first quarter and found themselves trailing by four.
With both sides playing physical, all out effort basketball, it was perhaps no surprise that it was at times a scrappy, stop-start affair, but I’m sure the Rocks players and fans don’t care too much about that.
The teams traded baskets to start the second quarter, but the Rocks seemed to fight for each other more than their opponents, with their intensity showing on the rebound column, where Glasgow out-rebounded the Eagles 49-33. A 7-0 run midway through the second stanza, highlighted by a neat pass at the basket from Canadian forward Andrew Wedemire to Davis for a two pointer, gave the home side a double-digit lead, but having thrown away leads on many an occasion to the Eagles, this one was by no means done.
In truth, the Eagles seemed somewhat off-key and suffered poor displays from the usually consistent duo of Charles Smith and Andrew Thompson, who shot a combined 3-for-15, while Andrew Bridge managed just one shot in over 24 minutes of game time. While it is obviously no fluke that the Eagles have swept aside all that has been in their path this season, this performance serves as a reminder as to what can happen when a key player or two have poor games. The fact that Gause and Chapman accounted for 57% of their shots, and 61% of their points, shows that even the lofty Eagles cannot rely on just one or two players to win matches in the BBL.
With the Rocks having had a tendency to throw games away this year with a bad quarter, it would be fair to say that few inside the Kelvin Hall felt that their side were home and dry and when the Eagles went on a 5-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to reduce the deficit to just four points with 4.22 left, Rocks fans could be forgiven for feeling slightly nervous.
The nerves certainly didn’t show on the court, however, as Harrison and Cranston calmly notched crucial baskets to put the Rocks up 78-71 with 1.09 remaining. Free-throws were traded for the rest of the tie, as the Eagles looked to extend the game for as long as possible, but it was ultimately an exercise in futility as the Rocks held on to clinch a morale-boosting victory.
Both Coach Davis and star man Cranston were keen to point out the importance of the victory as they look to build momentum heading into the play-offs, with the big centre commenting that ‘our confidence will be very high’ with Coach stating that ‘we want to make sure we’re going into the play-offs on a high and playing at a good level of basketball.’
The Rocks certainly showed what they are capable of producing when they have the entire roster fit and healthy. One can’t help but wonder just how the season would have gone if everyone were fully fit for the entirety of the campaign, but they certainly sent out a big statement to the rest of the league that come play-off time, the Rocks, and the Kelvin Hall, will be rocking.
Glasgow have just four games left of the regular season, with their sole home game being the season finale on 22nd April against a Durham Wildcats side that has been a credit to the BBL on their debut season, even if results haven’t often gone their way. By the end of that game, we will know our play-off opponents and then the real fun begins….
Anthony Rowe was the star man at the Kelvin Hall on Sunday with a spectacular 20 point and 20 rebound performance as the Raiders erased memories of their BBL Cup Final defeat two days previously with a 71-60 victory over the Glasgow Rocks.
The win kept alive the Raiders slight chance of being crowned league champions, while the Rocks are clinging on to fifth place following a second consecutive home defeat against top four opposition, and fourth consecutive defeat in total. It doesn’t get any easier for our boys either, with Newcastle making the trip north next Sunday. More worryingly, perhaps, for the Rocks is the fact that they have failed to score more than 60 points in each of the last two games, something that had not occurred all season prior to the visit of Leicester last weekend. Coach Davis, however, believes that it was just one of those days on the offensive side of the ball, stating that ‘today we just couldn’t put the ball in the basket. I thought we had some good open looks and the shots just didn’t fall for us.’ It would be difficult to argue otherwise, given the fact that his side shot just 28%. Coach Davis and Danny Huffor, recently called up to the Scotland squad, were the main culprits, going 2-for-20 combined.
The sheer dominance of Rowe didn’t help either. The big man had claimed an unbelievable seven rebounds inside the first five minutes of the game as Plymouth raced out to an early lead before being pegged back by a dogged Glasgow side that were buoyed by the somewhat unexpected return of Mychal Green. The 29 year old appeared to be a game time decision, with Sterl commenting that ‘at the beginning of the game Mike said he was feeling pretty good and he was ready to go. That was one of those times when I have to just listen to the player.’
In fairness, Green didn’t appear to miss a beat during an impressive first half display, but come the fourth quarter the Green Machine seemed to be slightly hampered, although he still racked up 38 minutes of game time along with a team high 15 points.
The first half was a very scrappy, physical affair, in part due to the number of contested rebounds due to both teams shooting the ball poorly. The Rocks had all the momentum going into half-time, coming back from four points down in the final three minutes to take a one point half-time lead at 31-30.
As has so often been the case for Glasgow this season, however, they had one bad quarter that ultimately gave them too much of a mountain to climb. In the opening exchanges of the second half you could have been forgiven for believing it was the Rocks that had had an energy sapping final two days beforehand and not their opponents as the Raiders came out all guns blazing. An 11-0 run in the opening three and a half minutes, thanks in large part to the hard work in the paint by Rowe and the passing of reigning MVP Jeremy Bell, gave the away side a lead they would not relinquish.
Despite the return of Green, the Rocks were still missing their veteran leader in E.J. Harrison, with the obvious effect being that the short-handed bench meant the starting five played more minutes than Coach Davis may have liked. Indeed the Rocks bench accounted for just five points, all from Danny Huffor, and slightly over 30 minutes of court time, 24 of which were for the Scotland international. Plymouth, on the other hand, were able to keep their squad fresh, their bench combining for 52 minutes, allowing them to have the upper hand come the final stages of the game.
I mentioned last week that I believed that the trio of Malnieks, Bunyan and Richards should be given more game time, and this was another key chance for them to be given a good run out, yet Coach Davis gave Martins and Jonny minimal time and Greg nothing at all, even when Green was obviously struggling in the latter stages of the game. One must question the need to play Green for 38 minutes in his return from injury, especially given the fact that his return was significantly earlier than initially expected.
Every time the Rocks would reduce the deficit, back came the Raiders to restore their double digit advantage and Plymouth went into the final stanza with a richly deserved 53-44 lead.
The final quarter was a much more even affair, although yet again the Rocks seemed to be sleeping offensively in the opening three minutes as Gavin Love’s men padded their advantage to a game high 14 points less than ninety second in on a breakaway converted by Colbert. Exciting rookie Jonny Bunyan entered for the Rocks but he was unable to spark a revival as the Raiders defence quickly harassed and hurried the youngster whenever he was given the ball.
With the result a formality inside the last couple of minutes all that was left was for Plymouth captain to notch the two points needed to claim a remarkable 20-20 performance.
Next up for the Rocks is an enticing home game against league leading Newcastle Eagles that Coach Davis admits will be another tough test. However, the Rocks are expected to be at full strength with the return of captain E.J. Harrison, although with the season we seem to be having this year, there’s every chance someone else will go down before next Sunday!
Coming off a two week break, the home side dominated the proceedings early on with some neat passing and effective finishing that saw them take a six point lead at the end of the first period, although, in truth, the gap would have been much larger had it not been for the Jets dominance on the boards. Despite not having a significant height advantage, the Jets seemed to be bringing everything down, in particular star man Schneck. They were able to limit the second chance opportunities for the Rocks, which proved crucial come the final buzzer.
DeAundrae Cranston and Andrew Wedemire, who have rarely been the go-to guys for Glasgow this season, were at the top of their game early on and finished as the two highest scorers for their side with 20 and 16 points respectively. After the game, Coach Davis admitted that it was difficult to take the duo out, commenting that ‘it was better to let these guys keep rolling.’ In truth, the Jets lack of defensive hustle and pressure made it easy for the Rocks to gain momentum during the early exchanges, and if the Jets coaches said anything to their team in between quarters, it certainly didn’t work as the Rocks eased through the next stanza also. Indeed, the lack of intensity and physicality in the Cheshire play was evident in the fact that they gave up just one foul in the entire first half.
Despite the Rocks defence itself being posted missing on a few occasions, they still appeared to be cruising to a tenth league victory of the season, and with under six minutes left in the third quarter they were comfortably ahead, at 56-39. Then it all went ugly.
For what seems like the umpteenth time this season, the Rocks gave up a 20 point run in a 10 minute spell. Twice against the Eagles, Glasgow have lost games on 25-2 and 25-4 runs, while against Plymouth just three weeks ago the Raiders went on a 30-8 in the fourth quarter to clinch victory on that occasion. At the Kelvin Hall on Sunday, the Jets went on a 31-9 run that stretched over nine minutes in the third and fourth quarters. Colin O’Reilly starting nailing the three pointers, Brown dominated the guard battle and Matt Schneck at centre suddenly discovered that it was actually fine to play with a bit of bite and aggression. Simply put, the Jets started to dominate on all fronts and the Rocks had no answer. It also tends to help in basketball when the shots drop too, and they certainly did do as Cheshire scored a breathtaking 21 points in the final 5:50 of the third quarter.
Coach Davis admitted after the game that if the Rocks want to make waves in the play-offs then they will need to stop their tendency to switch off for long periods, and when questioned as to whether it was a mental problem with his players, he commented that it was ‘frustrating to see the potential that we have and the type of team we can be, then to take the foot off the gas.’ He also voiced his frustration at the way the defence played in the third quarter that ultimately allowed the Jets to close, and then obliterate, the Rocks advantage.
With the Jets having tied the game by the end of the third quarter, the final ten minutes was tight, intense, and, to use Sir Alex Ferguson’s famous phrase, it was squeaky bum time. Two triples from Danny Huffor kept the Rocks close, while Murray, who scored a disappointing five points against his former team, nailed a deep three pointer to tie the game at 73-73 with 1.07 left to play. At which point, Brown stepped up, going 5-of-6 from the free throw line and claiming an assist on a two pointer from Bill Cole, with 28 ticks left on the clock that gave the Jets a lead they didn’t relinquish. Andrew Wedemire’s spectacular half court shot at the buzzer was all in vain and the Jets ran out 80-78 victors to claim their sixth victory of the league campaign.
The worrying thing for Sterl is that his team seems only to be able to play 30 minutes of decent basketball. This season, I can only count five games in which the Rocks can say that they played tough, aggressive and, more importantly, good basketball for the entire game. For those wondering, those games, in my mind, were the two home victories against Sheffield, the early season victories against Newcastle and Milton Keynes and the 30 point victory in Mersey against the Tigers. Too often have they allowed a poor spell to cost them the game and this has to be something that Coach needs to address if he wants his troops to make a decent run in the play-offs. A top four spot seems to be beyond Glasgow now, so it’s all about the race for fifth place. The Rocks certainly have the talent, but do they have the consistency?
Next up for Glasgow is a tricky double-header away at Leicester and Milton Keynes, although they have won in the back yards of both teams this season, so here’s hoping for a couple of repeat performances. The next home game will be on the 4th March against the lowly, but dangerous, Durham Wildcats, so make sure you get yourself down to Kelvin Hall to cheer on the team!
Coach Davis was quick to point out that veteran point guard E.J. Harrison is not yet at 100% following his three month injury lay-off. E.J. on the other hand, was equally quick to point out that if he’s on the court playing, then percentages don’t enter the equation. Few that turned up to the Kelvin Hall on Sunday, however, could deny that the veteran point guard played a crucial role in leading the Rocks to an 86-75 victory over the Guildford Heat in front of the SKY cameras. With Plymouth playing in the BBL Trophy semi-finals that day, the victory moved the Rocks up to 18 points, putting them on equal footing with the Raiders, although the south coast team have a six game advantage.
The Rocks seemed intent to put on a show for the cameras as they took a 4-2 lead early on thanks to a sweet alley oop that was finished by Gareth Murray, who seems to be back to form following a rough patch, although that was very much the highlight of a poor first quarter for the hosts that saw the Heat take a 22-15 lead into the second stanza thanks to some neat play, as ever, from Drew Lasker and Tayo Ogedengbe.
The defensive pressure that the Heat put the Rocks under was leading to turnover after turnover from Glasgow, who at times seemed to be trying to do much with the basketball. There were numerous times in the opening quarter where Green, in particular, tried to force a pass that just wasn’t available. The offensive rebounding at times seemed non-existent too.
A 20-8 run in the first seven minutes of the second quarter, highlighted by back to back three pointers from Harrison and a sweet behind the back pass under the basket from Andrew Wedemire that ultimately led to Green nailing two free throws, gave the Rocks a 35-29 lead before a late burst gave Guildford a deserved two point half-time lead. Despite some neat play from the home side, the Rocks were shooting a measly 39% at the break, while Guildford fared better at 47%. The difference, largely, was the Heat were controlling the points in the paint battle as their defence were constantly forcing Glasgow outside, while at the other end of the court the Guildford big men were getting to the basket with worrying ease.
The last time out at the Kelvin Hall, the Rocks had their worst performance of the season but have stepped it up greatly in the three games since that woeful defeat. ‘Nothing cures a team like watching film,’ said Sterl, before further commenting that he picked the game apart and that ‘once those things were addressed, that in itself improved the intensity level.’ If it was intensity the Coach was looking for at the start of the second half, then he sure got it as his boys went on a 17-2 run to open the third quarter that gave the Rocks the lead for good. Sterl switched his defence to zone and he agreed that was the catalyst for their early third quarter run, saying ‘I’ve always been a fan that if you get defensive stops, then the offensive side will happen and I think that helped us a lot.’
If the Rocks were guilty of playing sloppy basketball in the first quarter, then, so too were the Heat in the third quarter as the hustle and intensity that Coach Davis focussed on in training was there for all to see.
With the Rocks forced to play both Bunyan and Malnieks down the stretch thanks to Wedemire and Cranston being in foul trouble, the Heat were able to take advantage of the smaller and more inexperienced line-up and a 7-0 run helped Creon’s men whittle the Rocks lead down to just one with 4.45 remaining. As if on cue, up stepped E.J. with the poise and calmness that the Rocks desperately needed and his breakaway two pointer was the catalyst for an 8-0 run that proved one comeback too far for Guildford.
One massive benefit of having E.J back playing, if not fully healthy, is that it allows for a much deeper bench and Sterl stated after the game just how influential and important a player Harrison is for his team, describing his return as ‘crucial.’ Harrison, for his part, was quick to heap praise on the youngsters that had the opportunity to get more time on the court during his prolonged absence.
When the Rocks were fully healthy earlier in the season, they were a team that the rest of the league feared before a 3-6 spell in December and January. There’s little doubt in my mind that we can return to that level over the next few games once E.J. gets some games under his belt. In Harrison, Huffor and Green we have some excellent guards that are all capable of grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck and pulling us through in tight situations, while Gareth seems to have rediscovered his early season form too. With 13 games left in the season the teams are fighting for the play-off seedings and while the top four seem to have pulled away from the pack, don’t be surprised if the Rocks make a real push for a top four spot.
Next up for the Rocks is another televised game on 19th January at home to lowly Cheshire. The two week lay-off, Sterl commented, will ‘hopefully be an advantage to us instead of a burden.’ The push for the play-offs start here, so make sure you don’t miss out!
In a display that frustrated head coach Sterling Davis described as ‘rusty’ the Glasgow Rocks slumped to a surprising 89-75 defeat to a Mersey Tigers side that came up to Glasgow having failed to win on the road this season.
In their first home game of 2012, and their first competitive game for over a fortnight, coach Davis admitted that he somewhat expected his troops to be rusty during the games opening minutes. Indeed, both teams were rusty, as six minutes into the game the Tigers were leading 9-4, with both sides missing more than their fair share of simple shots.
Unfortunately for the Rocks faithful, the team were rusty for the entire first three quarters, shooting under 30% and allowing too many open shots on the defensive side of the ball. Despite a much better final ten minutes that brought a slimmer of respectability to the score line, Davis could not hide his disappointment in the performance of the team, saying, in a downbeat tone, that ‘from the rust it seemed like we just weren’t focussed, there was almost a lack of interest in the game’ before stating his disappointment in the inability of his team to respond positively from their early troubles.
Credit must go to Mersey, however, as they were able to shake off some early jitters themselves and their slick passing game, coupled with their defensive pressure, resulted in an admirable performance that belied their lowly record. David Aliu, as is so often the case against Glasgow, was the fulcrum for the Tigers and recorded an impressive 15 points and 5 assists while the ever dangerous Myles Hesson added to his growing reputation with a big double-double.
The Tigers passing ability notwithstanding, it was a scrappy and often poor game, not that Tony Garbelotto and his players will mind too much about that. Mersey raced out to an early 17-8 lead inside the opening eight minutes and never looked back. Glasgow, in truth, never looked capable of mounting a comeback, even at that early stage and produced a frustrating and disappointing three quarters that included Gareth Murray being fouled out following three early fouls in the third quarter after not realising how many fouls he was on. You could say that that summed up the Rocks night. A lack of concentration and interest hurt Glasgow dearly.
With many of his stars carrying injuries, coach Davis admitted it was a struggle and commented that the fortnight his team waited in between games in many ways didn’t help as he tried to strike a balance between resting the walking wounded and running his training sessions. Davis said that ‘we’ve still got guys with nagging injuries that they’re looking like they’ve just got to play with for the rest of the season.’ Bad news indeed.
Next up for the Rocks is a very tricky double-header next week away to Leicester and a Plymouth side that will no doubt still be licking their wounds after suffering a blowout defeat in the BBL Cup Final against the Eagles last weekend. Davis stated that he will be looking to work on the mental aspects of the game in training this week in an attempt to boost the intensity and effort levels in his team following such a disappointingly lacklustre display.
Next up at the Kelvin Hall are the Guildford Heat who will be keen to avenge their 99-94 defeat suffered in early December. The Heat have rebounded admirably following that defeat, which was their 12th consecutive loss. They will prove to be difficult opposition and the boys in blue will be sure to need as much support as possible, so make sure to book your tickets!
The Glasgow Rocks finished 2011 with a much needed 72-64 bounce-back victory over the One Health Sheffield Sharks following their horror show of a double-header before Christmas. Coming off two poor losses against Worcester and Plymouth, and with an injury ravaged squad, both Coach Davis and rising star Jonny Bunyan insisted finishing the year on a high was the only option. Bunyan, who scored all of his nine points in under two minutes during a crucial period at the start of the fourth quarter that edged the Rocks in front, stated that ‘we had to get the win’ while Coach commented that the team had responded terrifically in training and was proud of his troops performance.
With guard E.J. Harrison still out, and Coach looking suave in his suit while he sits out with a torn MCL, the Rocks were going to be up against it, but backed by a large and vocal Kelvin Hall crowd, the navy blue were able to pull off yet another stirring display against the Sharks, having previously beat them 82-64 in mid-November in front of the SKY cameras. While the Rocks were short-handed due to injuries, the Sharks were dealt a blow of an entirely different kind when leading scorer Jimmy Langhurst was unable to renew his visa and remained in the United States. Meanwhile, Justin Dobbins was suffering from the flu and captain Adrian Anderson remained sidelined due to a broken wrist.
It wasn’t a pretty game by any means, but the Rocks will not be too bothered by that as they look to stake claim to a top four slot in the table. The opening exchanges suggested that it was to be a scrappy affair as neither side was able to build momentum as missed shot followed missed shot and the Sharks passing left a lot to be desired. The Rocks built up a 24-16 lead early in the second quarter, but, as is so frustratingly often the case, Glasgow went missing for a large chunk of the game. With the defence being characteristically erratic in both its marking and pressure, Sheffield were able to capitalise on their rebounding advantage, and poor Rocks shooting, to go on a 12-0 run.
A key block from DeAundrae, and the hustle and determination of the Ginger One appeared to relight the fire in the team again as they closed out the half scoring more points in the final two minutes than they had managed in the previous eight.
Speaking after the game, Coach Davis was quick to heap praise on the young Scot saying that Jonny was ‘playing with more confidence’ and that ‘as time goes on he’ll get even better.’
A tight third quarter left the Rocks up by four points going into the final stanza.
Enter Jonny Bunyan. The 19 year old scored all nine of his points in a breathtaking and mesmerising two minute spell at the start of the fourth quarter that brought not only the crowd, but the Rocks bench to their feet in a mixture of adoration and astonishment. The young guard is playing with a confidence and skill that belies his teenage years. On several occasions he went right at the Sharks big men and beat them. Thanks mainly to the injury to E.J. Harrison, Jonny has been receiving ample game time, perhaps more than Coach would have initially intended, but recently he has forced his way right into the forefront of Sterl’s thoughts with electrifying displays and an infectious enthusiasm and hustle that can only bring about positive vibes for the rest of the players.
The Sharks never really got going, and despite out-rebounding the Rocks (55-33) they went an unforgiveable 5 of 35 from 3 point range, and shot just 30% from the field. That proved too poor an offensive performance from Atiba’s boys and the Rocks, thanks to back to back three pointers from Mychal Green, led by as many as 13 points in the final quarter before closing out a somewhat ugly, but very much deserved win.
The Rocks start 2012 with an away trip to perennial challengers and foes, the Eagles in what is sure to be a tough match-up against the table toppers then they have a fortnight off before the visit of the Mersey Tigers to the Kelvin Hall. You know you don’t want to miss that clash!
A mesmeric display from Mychal Green led the Rocks to a 99-94 victory over the winless Guilford Heat on Sunday at the Kelvin Hall in a contest that was marred by the serious injury suffered by ex-Rock and fan favourite Mike Copeland in the first quarter.
Despite Guilford having gone 0-11 in all competitions both Coach Davis and guard Danny Huffor were keen to point out that the Heat were certainly not going to be taken lightly. Davis stated that he ‘disregarded their record completely,’ with Danny adding that he knew they were ‘going to be a good, athletic team.’
Veteran guard E.J. Harrison remained out, while Sterl still wasn’t 100% fit, so yet again the Rocks were going to have to play short-handed. That being said, when you have the Green Machine playing the way he has been this season, it almost seems like you can throw anything our way and Mychal will lap it up, get on with the job and carry this team on his shoulders.
The teams traded baskets in the early going, with neither team building a sizeable lead. The Rocks defence was posted missing on a few occasions though that led to easy points for the Heat, something that you just can’t concede against any opposition. Guilford dominated the boards, which led to them being able to cut down the second chance opportunities for Glasgow. With just over a minute to go in the first quarter, big Cope went down following a collision with Cranston underneath the basket. The injury looked bad at the time, and has since been confirmed as a snapped patella tendon. I’m sure everyone associated with the Rocks, fans and staff alike, wish Mike a speedy recovery.
Following a lengthy delay, the Heat claimed five unanswered points to close out the first quarter and take a 28-20 lead. Then, it was Mychal’s time to shine. In the second quarter alone, Green notched up 21 points on 7 of 8 shooting (including 5 of 5 from behind the arc and 2 of 2 from the free throw line). I can let the stats do the talking there. Simply an incredible performance, even more so when you consider that Murray was the Rocks second highest scorer with 21 for the entire game!
Green ended up with 32 points in total, and speaking to Danny after the game, he was in absolutely no doubt that Green has taken over the role of team leader following the injury to E.J, saying that while the entire team has had to step up, Mychal has stepped up ‘way higher’ than anyone else.
When E.J. gets back from his injury, that must surely give the Rocks the best guard combo in the league. You would have the three remarkable guards, each with their own unique skills to bring to the table. Huffor is a defensive specialist, Green the offensive weapon, while Harrison has all the intangibles that don’t get noted in the box score with his leadership and knowledge of the game. That, of course, is not to say he doesn’t contribute considerably on the score sheet.
Green’s second quarter heroics turned the tide massively in favour of the Rocks, and it was to stay that way for the remainder of the game. A four point half-time lead became eight going into the final quarter. Although the Rocks were never able to put the game beyond doubt until the last few seconds, they did hold the lead for the entire second half against a very resilient and determined side, who despite now being 0-12 were certainly no slouches.
Both teams, in actuality, played fairly similar games with a high tempo offence that was geared to score points. Defensively, the Rocks in particular, and rather uncharacteristically, allowed numerous open looks from down town and perhaps a more lethal team would have taken the two Championship points away from Kelvin Hall, but the Rocks ultimately did enough.
One pleasing note was that Glasgow hit 9 of 18 from behind the arc, significantly better than their season average, and what arguably lost us the game last week against the Eagles. If they can keep up stats like that, then they will be even more difficult to beat.
Next week the Rocks have a tough double header away at Worcester and Plymouth, but Huffor, who tallied 18 points on Sunday, and was one of four Rocks players to nail 50%, or more, of their shots, is looking relishing the challenge, believing that back to back games ‘make us more prepared, we go into the first game and we’ll play really well and I know the second game is going to be even better, that’s just how we are.’ Let’s hope you’re right Danny!
As this is the last blog before Christmas, I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy Christmas and also to pass on my condolences to the family and friends of James Lay. Although I never knew him personally it is easy to see the impact he had on many of those in the Rocks family and his loss came far too soon.
The Glasgow Rocks suffered an agonising defeat against main rivals Newcastle Eagles in front of a sold-out Kelvin Hall on Sunday. The 89-85 reverse sees Glasgow slip down to third in the BBL Championship, behind Worcester, with a 5-3 record. Newcastle, on the other hand, remain top with their unbeaten record.
It was always going to be a tough ask for the Rocks given the continued absence of star guard E.J Harrison to an ankle injury, while Coach was carrying a knock himself that limited him to slightly over 13 minutes of game time.
The first quarter was a real back and forth affair with both sides enjoying short bursts of domination. Glasgow came out firing and opened up an early five point advantage but the Eagles quickly fought back. The defensive pressure that Sterl has tried to hammer home to his troops all season was only shown in all too brief glimpses and the Eagles were left with far too many uncontested shots. That being said, the Rocks dominated the boards, at both ends in the first stanza and, despite not playing outstanding basketball, they found themselves down four points heading into the second quarter, where it all seemed to fall apart.
In what was surely the worst period played by the Rocks this year, they allowed the Eagles to go on a 25-2 run that looked like it had effectively clinched the game. The Rocks were sloppy in possession, turning the ball over with embarrassing regularity and letting the Eagles stroll to the basket for the easy shot. They seemed to be almost trying too hard and offensively just didn’t seem relaxed.
Yes, the injuries were damaging to the team, and the result may well have been different had EJ and Davis been fit, but the Rocks shot themselves in the foot with this one. At one point, Glasgow were a woeful 1 of 19 from behind the arc. Need I say more? I also feel that Davis should have changed things up a bit during the second quarter. At half-time, Wedemire, who had his best game in a Rocks jersey so far, and the Green Machine, totalled 23 of the 26 Rocks points. What happened to the other guys? The so-called ‘reserve’ players have shown on several occasions that they are more than capable of putting in a decent performance when called upon, especially wee Jonny Bunyan. Had he, or Martins, been given a run out for five minutes or so, it would have given the Eagles something different to think about and may have been the catalyst the Rocks so badly needed. At the end of the day, why have bench players if you’re reluctant to use them, especially when short-handed? While it may be a limited sample, Bunyan, Malnieks and Richards have gone 11 of 17 combined this season, so they are hardly slouches and clearly the stats show that only Mychal and Andy were remotely effective in the first half.
As bad as the second quarter was, the third quarter was incredible. The Rocks equalled their 26 first half points within eight minutes and outscored the Eagles 35-17. Green quoted Sterling, after the game, as having instilled a belief in his players that ‘Newcastle are not a better team than us,’ and that Coach simply asked his troops to play ‘Rocks basketball.’ Well, they certainly did that. The high intensity on both sides of the ball that was so badly lacking during the second quarter returned in abundance and dreams of a miraculous comeback were well and truly on. DeAundrae, in particular, come out fired up and scored 8 of his 14 for the game in the opening five minutes of the second half.
That, essentially, was the difference between a truly awful second quarter and the heroic fight back. Murray, Huffor and Cranston were finding ways of getting to the basket and getting their shots to drop. Remarkably, having gone 1 of 19 previously, the Rocks went 6 of 7 from behind the arc before two last gasp efforts fell short in the dying seconds.
Despite a brief lead with just over six minutes left to play, the effort of the chase, and the use of only six players, proved too tiring for the Rocks, and Newcastle, as always seems to be the case, managed to find the extra gear, helped by clinical free throw shooting in pressure situations and ran out four point winners.
As a fan, in many ways it is a difficult game to evaluate. Do we get down beat because of the defeat and the second quarter performance, or do we feel confident and proud over the valiant, yet ultimately futile comeback? Personally, I’m in the second camp. Twice in the last month we have played Newcastle and lost in a close game despite giving away 20 point runs. Despite the defeat, this performance does show that we do have what it takes to beat the Eagles if we can just play hard for the full 40 minutes, instead of the 30 it was on Sunday.
Next up we have the winless Guilford Heat at the Kelvin Hall in the last home game before Christmas and a chance to not only bounce back quickly with a win, but also a chance to see a slew of former Rocks stars with Mike Copeland having united with Julius Joseph and Michael Martin. It’s sure to be a cracker.
The Glasgow Rocks entered their SKY televised game on Remembrance Sunday in less than ideal fashion following two tough defeats to Cheshire and Newcastle while the injury to veteran E.J. Harrison meant that the navy blue would be up against it for the visit of the One Health Sheffield Sharks.
The Sharks themselves, however, have gotten off to a somewhat surprisingly slow start considering their unquestionable fire power, with the like of Nate Reinking and Olu Babalola, and came into the game on the back of a three game losing streak that included agonising losses to Newcastle and Plymouth that saw them drop to a 1-2 record in league play this term.
Going into the game the match-up I was most looking forward to seeing was the battle of the big men. Sharks forward Justin Dobbins up against DeAundrae. For all the flair players and sexy three pointers, games are won and lost in the paint and on the boards and these two earn their pay doing those exact things.
The Rocks came out looking a bit slow on both ends of the court, as they have done a few times this season. The hustle on the offensive rebounds in particular wasn’t what it should have been with too many players not anticipating the board. Sheffield raced out to an early lead and Dobbins appeared to be having the better of his personal battle with Cranston. Then, it got a whole lot worse as Cranston injured his ankle and sat out all but 22 seconds of what remained of the game. I, for one, feared the worst as the Sharks size looked like it might overpower the Rocks. Add to that, Glasgow were playing their second game in three days and now were down to just eight players, it was going to take an heroic performance in front of the TV cameras to pull a win out of the bag.
And boy did they deliver! An 82-64 victory moved Glasgow up to 2nd in the championship as yet again the Rocks defensive hustle and fight proved too difficult to break down. Speaking to Sterl after the game he couldn’t have sounded happier with the effort and determination of his troops, commenting that ‘the guys really came through and showed what type of team we can be regardless of what type of situations are thrown at us.’ Coach Davis also confirmed that DeAundrae Cranston suffered a sprained ankle and it will be assessed before anything is stated regarding how long it might keep him out of action for.
Following the injury to Cranston, the remainder of the boys really stepped it up and didn’t allow the Sharks any time on the ball once they crossed into the Glasgow half. A 32% field goal percentage from Sheffield says more about the Rocks defence than it did the Sharks offence. I counted just 4 genuinely uncontested shots for the Sharks at the Kelvin Hall last night, proof, if indeed it were at all needed, that pressure leads to missed shots.
With Harrison being the quarterback it was going to be interesting to see who would carry the team in the way that E.J does. The truth is, everybody chipped in. Green dominated for a large spell, and led all scorers with 23 points. Huffor was game MVP with 18 points and 5 steals while Coach dominated defensively with 3 blocks. Even Martins came on and nailed two crucial three pointers, much to his delight. During the course of a long season, each team will have to deal with various injuries that will stretch the squad, but this Rocks team appears to have real depth, as Martins proved when he came on and impressed.
Next up for Glasgow is an away trip to the north-east to face the Durham Wildcats, a team they have already beaten twice in the BBL Trophy this season, although both were tough games. Four of Durham’s last five games, in fact, have been decided by five points or less. Wedemire, who got the start in place of the inured Harrison on Sunday, expects another close encounter, saying that the Rocks will have to bring their ‘A game’ if they want to return north of the border with the win.
The next home game will be 4th December against the other north-east team, our main rivals the Newcastle Eagles in what promises to be a great game against the early leaders of the BBL table, although hopefully by the time we play them, it will be the Rocks who are soaring above the Eagles.