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Mixed week for Reading Rockets as Elite beaten but Trailblazers through in cup

Mitch Clarke <i>(Image: Luke Simcock)</i>
Mitch Clarke (Image: Luke Simcock)

IT was a weekend of mixed fortunes for Reading Rockets. They defeated London Elite 107-95 in a league game last Saturday, but a day later lost 69-98 to Derby Trailblazers in the KitKing Trophy semi-final.

Rockets needed overtime to win at Capital City Academy after an 87-87 tie at the end of regulation time.

Samit Nuruzade's men narrowly lost the first three periods 21-22, 19-21 and 23-25, but won the fourth 24-18, and their momentum continued in overtime, taking it 20-8 for their fifth Division 1 win in six games.

With 27 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists, Reading's Mitch Clarke had a terrific guard battle with London's Afrasyab Khalil, who recorded 24-7-4.

Clarke was well supported by Reis Pinnock, who scored 20 points and took eight rebounds, and Elijah Maynard, with 19 points, while Finleigh Porter and Zach Powell both came off the bench to contribute 10 points each.

Australian Clarke celebrated his 24th birthday by top-scoring again on Sunday, recording 18 points, three rebounds and three assists, but he could not prevent his side from making their exit in the home semi-final at the hands of Derby Trailblazers.

Perhaps showing the after-effects of the period of overtime the previous day, Rockets were slow out of the blocks and though they opened the scoring with a Powell three-pointer, it was the only time they would lead in the entire game.
They lost the period 20-34, and also the second, but by only two points, 20-22.

Rockets did edge the next period 24-20, leaving them 64-76 in arrears, and a big Loddon Valley crowd were expecting a solid finish from them, but it never materialised with a tired-looking side managing only five points to Derby's 22, failing to find the net in the last six minutes, while the Trailblazers rounded off the game with 16 unanswered points.

While Clarke top-scored, only Maynard and Powell took their individual totals into double figures, with 14 points apiece..

A delighted Trailblazers head coach Matt Shaw described it as "probably our best performance of the season so far", adding: "We defended the way we know we’re capable of, and did a lot of really positive things to make life difficult for Reading."
Trailblazers will take on Bradford Dragons in the final.

This coming Saturday, fourth-placed Rockets (5-1) are away to Hemel Storm (5-2), the side immediately above them in the placings.

Reading are through to the Women's National Cup quarter-finals after defeating Division 2 club Worcester Wolves 73-61.