THE McDonald Rockhampton Rockets bid to win a record breaking third consecutive Queensland Basketball League (QBL) Championship is in the balance tonight at Hegvold Stadium in their quarter final against Gladstone Port City Power.
No team has won three QBL championships in a row and to seal the three-peat they must progress to the semi-finals. It is their most important game of the season, something Rockets co-captain Mitch Philp acknowledges.
"It's a big game, the biggest of the year," Philp said.
"Everything is amplified in games like this. We have to look after the ball, in every play. There's no doubt Gladstone will be a completely different team to the one we played last time. It is their first time playing finals and they are also coming off a bye."
The Rockets had a light training session on Monday after their strong win over the Brisbane Capitals last weekend and on Wednesday their training lifted in intensity. The boys will have a shoot-out this morning and then try and relax before the must-win match.
Philp believes there are two key factors to securing victory tonight.
"We need to play as a unit," Philp said.
"Last time we did that we showed just what we are capable of against Brisbane and again it has to be a collective group effort instead of individual performances. We need to play for one another, so guys are involved and confidence is high.
"I think our experience will also be a factor. Our core group, Brad, Glenn, Peni and myself, we have all played a lot of finals basketball. Gladstone really only have Michael Cedar, so I think our superior experience across the floor will help us."
Co-captain Brad Williamson agrees the Rockets' finals experience will help them.
"I'm feeling pretty relaxed and so is the team," Williamson said.
"We have been in this situation plenty of times before and I think most of us are used to it by now. Obviously, it is going to be about our defensive pressure as we showed against Brisbane. And rebound basketball is a big thing for us. If we play well defensively we rebound well. If we don't play good rebound basketball we tend to slump."