The team headed into February having won their last two games. There was talk of a new winning streak which would keep us near the top as potential title challengers. So how did we do?
First up were the Riders. Not long ago they knocked us out the BBL Trophy and this time the H2H in the league was up for grabs. The Riders took an early lead before the Rocks settled into the game as an evenly fought first half was played out. Five quick points for Neil Watson put the Rocks up 24-23 in the second quarter but it was the Riders who went into the half time break leading. A 7-0 in the third saw the Rocks ahead again but Brandon Clarke of the Riders scored 10 points, including back to back triples, to end the third with the Riders up by 13. Riders continued their momentum to pull away and the gap extended to more than 20 points. Neil Watson produced a late flourish for the Rocks but it was too late and the Rocks suffered their first double digit defeat of the season. Neil Watson had 22 points, Kieron Achara 17 and Gareth Murray had 14.
It was important to get back to winning ways and the team were able to do so against the Bristol Flyers. The Scottish duo of Kieron Achara and Gareth Murray were the inspiration with the former shooting 69% on his way to 20 points, while the latter posted a double double of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Defence was the story of the game as the Rocks put in their best defensive performance since the opening night. In a low scoring start, the Rocks restricted the Flyers to just two first quarter shots and included a seven minute spell where the Flyers could not score from open play. The Flyers had their best spell in the second quarter responding with a 12-2 start but Anthony Elechi came off the bench and halted the Flyers’ momentum in a run of seven unanswered points, before ending the night with 14 points and 9 rebounds. The Flyers kept pushing but Gareth Murray, the league’s most accurate shooter, scored 9 points early in the fourth quarter to ensure the Rocks had a comfortable finish to the game.
Less than 48 hours later the team were facing Plymouth away. It was the Rocks who made the better start and opened up an 18 point lead in the first quarter. Plymouth scored the final 5 points of the opening period and began a comeback with a 16 – 2 burst across quarters to cut the gap to four. The Raiders then completed the turnaround with a 3 pointer from Daryl Corletto, but the Rocks edged back ahead at the half time buzzer. Neil Watson had the hot hand in the third with three triples in short succession and the Rocks led 52 – 59. However Plymouth went ahead again with a 5 – 0 start to the fourth and it took a late 12 – 1 run from the Rocks to kill off the game. Kieron Achara top scored with 19 points with a shared 32 points from back court due Hayden Lescault and Neil Watson.
Cheshire Phoenix were up next in another visit to the Emirates. Phoenix came into the game having won five consecutive games in Glasgow. The Rocks led for the majority of the game although it was never comfortable. Gareth Murray split the teams as he scored 5 points in a 7 – 2 second quarter run, making the score 32 – 23 as he and Kieron Achara shared 17 early points. It was double digits by the half as Anthony Elechi came off the bench and scored into double figures as he went 5 / 5 on shooting. The Rocks led 44 – 32 and Murray’s three pointer after the break kept the lead at that margin. Cheshire made it close down the stretch and got to within a one shot game at 69 – 67 but JB’s crucial three pointer kept the Rocks in the lead. Gareth Murray top scored with 21 points, Neil Watson had 13 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds, Anthony Elechi had 15 points and Kieron Achara had 13.
The Plymouth Raiders were the next team to visit the Emirates and the game turned out to be an impressive shooting display from long range. Neil Watson opened the game with back to back triples and added a third late in the opening period as both teams struggled to get going, with Plymouth shooting below 25% after the first quarter. Raiders made a better start to the second quarter and quickly doubled their points total but Kieron Achara knocked down consecutive threes to help the Rocks establish a 34 – 24 advantage. The Rocks made nine three pointers in the first half and continued to find their range from downtown in the second half. Plymouth had a strong surge in the fourth quarter but the Rocks stayed strong and came out 98 – 80 winners, scoring 19 three pointers in total. Kieron Achara finished with a game high 26 points while Gareth Murray and Neil Watson added 20 points each as the trio made 15 three pointers among them.
With a strong performance throughout the month of February, Kieron Achara won the BBL Player of the Month award. He amassed an efficiency valuation of 20.6 for the month, drawn from an average of 18.6 points per game, including 100% from the free throw line, and going 12 of 23 from behind the arc. He also clocked up 7 rebounds per game and was the BBL’s leading shot blocker with an average of 2 shots per game.
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