With injury and sickness having depleted Coach Keane’s squad and interfered with his game preparation, he had no hesitation in promoting 17-year-old Asher Ndah to the starting five.
The John Madejski Academy student showed not only his talent but also his invaluable worth to Rockets at this top level as he blitzed the opening quarter with ten personal point but also stroked a key buzzer beating treble getting Rockets to within a single point of their visitors at the interval.
In fact the first score of the game was a treble from Ndah and though the mercurial Nick Richards spun to extend Rockets early advantage, a 6-0 Bradford Dragons run caused Coach Keane to call a time-out. Liam Davis hit a jump shot and then a long two but Dragons shooting guard David Walsh was on electric form hitting three trebles in the opening period as he also took the last shot to give the visitors a 27-20 lead at the first break.
The 7-0 Dragons run at the end of the first quarter was matched at the start of the second quarter as they extended it to a 14-0 run and a 34-20 lead inside the first minute.
Another pair of trebles from the Dragons guard Walsh was matched with fast breaks and steals from Rockets which they converted into points to reduce the deficit. A Davis block lit up the court and a Richards electrically fast back track stopped a certain Dragons score. A brace of free throws from Carr brought Rockets to within three points before another Dragons treble.
However the tempo had now increased markedly by the hosts and with Carr scoring off an offensive rebound and receiving an assist from Richards to add to his score, it was just left to the young Ndah to stroke the buzzer beating treble seeing the home team behind by just 45-46 at the interval.
Davis and Richards gave Rockets the lead at the start of the period and then a Richards steal and finger roll coupled to a Dixon drive and a Davis pull up jump shot saw Rockets 55-50 up.
Captain Potter came in for a three point play but five unanswered points including a buzzer beating Dragons treble meant Rockets lead was just 63-61 as the final quarter beckoned.
A Richards steal and score and another drive and finish saw Rockets 68-64 ahead but Dragons kept pegging the hosts to just a two point advantage as the end game gathered momentum.
The Dragons roared again and cut the deficit to 75-76 as a tough officials call had taken Dragons to the free throw line all inside the last minute. Both teams stop each other and with just 16.6 seconds remaining Rockets miss, Dragons call a time-out to try and secure a win on the road.
The ball was inbounded but Rockets make a stop. 9.7 seconds remained and Dragons had another opportunity for the last play to take the victory. Rockets stop them again and in doing so Dragons are called for a foul. Up steps the confident Richards and sinks both free throws with 3.4 secs on the clock and crucially a three point lead. Dragons inbound but their long shot was never near the ring and a delighted Rockets took the victory 78-75.
Academy student Asher Ndah was Nando’s Player of the Game as he scored 13 pts and took down 6 rebounds with Nick Richards hitting 21 pts, making 4 assists and 4 steals; A J Carr scoring 16 pts and taking down 8 rebounds and Liam Davis having 15 pts and also taking down 8 rebounds.