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Rockets lose home playoff game, look to build toward next season

on March 17, 2012

As the final seconds ticked away in the Richmond Rockets’ first-ever playoff game against the Bay Area Matrix, guard Patrick Mitchell lost his dribble. The ball skipped toward the sidelines. Like the game itself, the ball was out of reach. But Mitchell dove headlong into the first row, scattering chairs and scrambling spectators in a failed attempt to snag the loose ball.

Mitchell, like his team, never gave up.

patrick mitchell

Patrick Mitchell embraces an opponent as time expires Friday night. (Robert Rogers/RichmondConfidential)

“We can’t hang our heads, I’m really proud of our guys and our fans for not only tonight’s effort, but the entire season,” Head Coach Phranklin McKinney said after his team’s 119-86 playoff loss to the Matrix at the Richmond PAL Center Friday. “We have something to build on here.”

The Rockets followed an 18-6 inaugural season and playoff berth with a tough loss to their archrivals, with whom they had split the regular-season series 3-3. The Matrix, last season’s conference champs, move on to the next round to play the San Francisco Rumble on Saturday. The Rockets look to next year.

The Rockets started strong, draining long jumpers and forcing turnovers in the first half to keep pace with their bigger and more experienced opponents.

Star guard Tita Davis hit a long 3-pointer – his second in the quarter – to draw within six of the Matrix, who led 41-35 with 7:10 remaining in the second quarter.

Acrobatic drives to the basket by Davis and shooting guard Allen Hester had the Rockets down 40-49 at the end of the first half.

At halftime, McKinney was optimistic. “Right now I think we got outhustled for a few loose balls, but we’re not in panic mode,” McKinney said. “If we can get hot, hit a couple quick baskets, we’ll be right there.”

But it was the Matrix that caught fire in the second half, swarming the Rockets with fierce defense and raining 3-pointers.

When Davis misfired on a 3-pointer of his own as time ran out on the third quarter, the Matrix were up 86-70.

The Matrix came out sizzling to start the fourth quarter, and soon the rout was on.

The Rockets never lacked for effort. The near-capacity crowd of more than 500 and the slapping sounds of hard fouls spoke to the game’s intensity. Guard Lindsey Hughey was relentless in driving the lane, drawing fouls and converting numerous times at the rim. All-Star big man Justin Baker brought his usual rugged rebounding, at time dominating inside despite droves of big-bodied Matrix defenders.

Davis, the team’s scoring phenom all season, went cold in the second half.

But it was the Matrix who dictated the action in the fourth quarter, at one point draining three straight long three-pointers.

When the Matrix turned a Hughey turnover into a fast break culminating in a spectacular alley-oop dunk, the score was out of reach: 94-76 with less than 9 minutes remaining.

After the game, Rockets CEO Eric Marquis stood at the exit thanking fans and promising them the Rockets would be back. “November 2012, that’s when we expect to start our next great season,” Marquis said.

justin baker

Rockets forward Justin Baker signs autographs for a young fan after the game. (Robert Rogers/RichmondConfidential)


  1. Dina Hurtado on March 18, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Could you tag me in this picture…. that’s my daughter getting the autograph.. Thank you!

  2. Dina Hurtado on March 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Could you tag me in this picture.. that’s my daughter getting the autograph.. Thank you!

    • Robert Rogers on March 18, 2012 at 10:01 pm

      Wonderful Dina,

      In order for me to tag the photo with your name, we have to be facebook friends. i sent you a friend request.

      Thank you,
      Robert Rogers

  3. Bob Kennedy on March 18, 2012 at 9:50 pm

    Can’t wait ’til next year …

  4. Jean Womack on March 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Your report is an excellent summary of the playoff game. The Matrix came on strong and scary from the very beginning of the game and showed no mercy. Patrick and Royce Mitchell (cousins) have grown with the team this year and appear to get more time and responsibility on the court with each game. High scoring Lindsey Hughey has been supporting everyone with assists. Alex Raj and Chris Adams spring to life when needed. Justin Baker plays with an envelope of space around himself that is just big enough for a successful shot at the basket. Strategist and grandstander Davis has defied the odds and led his team to a second season in the ABA, noted for fielding teams that never finish the season. And they even had the heart to let a newcomer to the sport like me write about them.

    • Robert Rogers on March 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm

      Thank you Jean. Your reporting on the Rockets has been great too.

      Robert Rogers

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