Reading Rockets will make the journey down the M4 this Saturday when they take on EBL Division One runners-up, Bristol Academy Flyers, in the play-off quarter finals at Filton College (7pm tip-off). The Rockets, who finished their season with 14 wins and 10 losses, finished in 7th place in the league and therefore secured a tie with the 2nd placed team who finished with a record of 18 wins and 6 losses as they parted with their Division One trophy to newly-crowned champions the BA London Leopards. Saturday's meeting will be the third time the two team's have met this term, with the Bristol outfit winning the first game comfortably by 68 points to 54, although the Berkshire club will be buoyed by the most recent game in which they won by three points as they ran out winners by 66 points to 63. Saturday's victors will go on to face the winner of the Derby v Bradford clash in the semi-finals at the Amaechi Basketball Centre where the end of season final fours will take place for the fourth year running.
Rockets' Head Coach Samit Nuruzade is thoroughly looking forward to this weekend's match up against Bristol and despite losing to Bradford last weekend and ending up in seventh place in the league, the Azerbaijani native is happy with how his team has progressed through the season. He said, "I am pleased with how we have done this season because we have had a lot to contend with but we have done so very well and come out of the 24 games with a positive record. We have had a very young team who have done exceptionally well and to think we were only a handful of points away from third place is in fact a good achievement for us. We dropped three games by one point this season and lost a crucial game on Saturday which would have propelled us up the league however, our goal has been to reach the post season which we have done with a great run recently and I am certainly very pleased about that. Going into Saturday's game with that in mind and the fact we have beaten Bristol recently is good for us in terms of confidence and this week is about making sure we get our preparation spot on and making some tweaks and additions on the practice floor. One thing for sure about this team this year is their commitment to playing for forty minutes; my team has always played with heart, effort, and enthusiasm, and I feel this puts us in a decent position for Saturday's game against a very tough opposition who will be looking to win their first trophy of the season after being runners-up in all three competitions so far this year. It will be a tough challenge for me and my team but one we must feel confident about conquering."
With the regular season coming to an end and in looking ahead to the Bristol contest, Rockets Captain Ryan Lohfink feels his team can cause an upset on Saturday and is happy with how preparations are going for this weekend's match-up. He said, "It has been a tough season with all the comings and goings, the injuries and illnesses, and the competitiveness of the league, but despite all this I feel we have done a really good job of competiting and getting in position where we can go into any game feeling that we can win it and I think it is important that we take this confidence into Saturday's game against Bristol. It has been a different season for me because I have had to take a lead role in scoring and rebounding and helping our younger players but it is something I have found challenging which I feel has pushed my leadership skills to another level and provided me with opportunities to help our younger players. Bristol will be a tough opposition for sure, since I have been at Rockets they are probably the only team to keep the same core of players for the whole time and playing against that experience alone is tough because they know each other's games inside out and they are well coached and prepared to go along with that so we are certainly up against it but excited by the fact we beat them last month so I expect a cracking game. I know I need to put my performance against Leeds behind me and lead from the front as we look to secure a place in the final fours."
Rockets go into Saturday's 'winner takes all' game with a couple of injury concerns but the Berkshire club is hoping that Samit Nuruzade has a full squad to select from this weekend. Great Britain Under 20 International Harrison Gamble sat out of Sunday's victory against Leeds Carnegie with a continued hip flexor complaint but looks set to be available for Saturday's clash. 19 year old Lewis Champion's knock to his knee looks to have cleared up after his impressive 32 point haul against last Sunday's opposition. German forward Michael Matzeder came through his first two games in three weeks unscathed and it looks as though he will play a pivotal part in Saturday's encounter with Centre Steve Vaughan remaining touch and go with his latest injury. 16 year old England International Luke Nelson will return to the fold after being away on national team duty in Holland last weekend which leaves the Rockets ready to go into the post season.