Leome Francis made a brilliant first impression on his debut at Rivermead on Sunday afternoon as he had a double double with 28 pts and 17 rebounds bringing much acknowledgement from his team mates, his Head Coach and the Rockets supporters alike.
The game began with Francis on the bench having only had two training sessions since his transfer from Northampton Titans in mid- week but four minutes into the game Coach Keane released the 6’5” forward, who has been recruited to help fill the vacancy left by A J Carr’s season long broken hand. onto the court to tumultuous applause.
He led all Rockets players with eight personal points in the opening quarter as well as dominating the boards. Liam Davis had scored Rockets first points with a floater before David Chive stroked a treble and Nick Richards hit both penalty shots as he was fouled as he drove to score.
The returning Aussie Ben Dixon gave the first of his seven assists to Francis to score before the forward spun and finished giving Rockets a single point lead at 13—12. A crucial Richards block interrupted the three point shooting of the visitors who had tied the scores on 17, 20 and 23 as they hit four trebles in the opening period and edged ahead 24-23.
Liverpool extended their advantage as they scored the opening five points inside the opening 90 seconds of quarter two to lead 29-23, much to the annoyance of Coach Keane. Francis stopped the rot and Richards again scored with a pair of free throws before Francis scored inside and then Liam Davis was also secure from the penalty stripe as he took down an offensive rebound, tying the scores on 31.
Richards stole the ball and sent an assist to Davis to slam dunk before Spanish guard Pau Mayor scored and Richards sent an assist to Francis and eased Rockets ahead 38-32 with an 11-3 run, causing Liverpool to call a time -out. In their next 2 possessions the visitors stroked a brace of trebles , so much a part of their armoury and with two brothers Reiss and Ellis Haggith.
Davis scored well inside and drew the foul making it a three point play moments before Dixon gave an assist for Richards to finish exquisitely with a finger roll and seeing the hosts in the locker room with a 48-43 lead.
Rockets opened the scoring at the start of the third period as the two big men imposed themselves as Francis took down an offensive rebound and gave an assist to Davis to score with his trademark slam dunk.
Dixon drove and scored before a 3 man fast break was finished with a Davis slam. Rockets defence was improving as Richards made a block and Francis a stop as Rockets enjoyed a 56-47 lead .
A Francis base line drive and score was followed by a spin and score but the Liverpool sharp shooters struck again with a treble to stay 5-6 points adrift throughout the quarter which finished 64-59 in Rockets favour.
Rockets powered in 32 points in this final stanza as Richards helped himself to 13 points and the twin big men attackers hit 11 between them. A pair of Davis jump shots got Rockets up and running before Dixon waited for the fast approaching Richards to rise high, score and hit the penalty shot as he was fouled in scoring.
Richards gave an assist to Chive who followed up that score with a pull up jump shot too. Francis gave an assist to Richards who then made a pair of audacious steals and finishes to see Rockets with a double digit lead of 88-78. Mayor scored with a lay-up before Francis finished his cameo debut with a brace of offensive rebounds and scores. Needless to say he was the Nando’s Impact Player of the Game .
With Rockets facing a mid-week game at Barking Abbey on Tuesday evening, Head Coach Alan Keane is hoping that Matias Boho will be fit .
Top scorers for Rockets were Leome Francis with 28 pts, 17 rebounds whilst also drawing seven fouls. Nick Richards hit 23 pts, made six steals and gave four assists as Liam Davis hit 21 pts, and took down 7 rebounds. David Chive was Rockets other player finishing with 11 pts, as the academy players also took down four rebounds.