The fall season of our Pistons Academy Rookie League, presented by Kroger, comes to a close with this week’s playoff tournament. It has a been a season full of great performances and competition as teams have been building towards the playoffs and a chance to be crowned Rookie League Champions. A single-elimination tournament will decide this season’s Rookie League Champions. Please continue reading for all the latest news and highlights from the playoffs.
ROOKIE LEAGUE PLAYOFFS
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 11th
#3 ROCKETS 25, #6 CELTICS 2: The third-seeded Rockets punched their ticket to the semifinals with a resounding win on Tuesday night over the short-handed Celtics. The Celtics, who struggled to contain the Rockets around the basket, were without two key contributors on Tuesday evening. They battled hard, but came up short against the impressive Rockets. Landon Lutz led the Rockets with a game-high 12 points and Isaac Miller added 8 points. The Celtics were led by Miguel Foster Jr. (2 points), Dylan Beznos (2 steals) and Michael Costner (2 blocks). Miles Trice and Avery Samuels each scored 2 points for the Rockets, while Jacob Fischman added a free throw.
#5 WIZARDS 11, #4 SUNS 10: The fifth-seeded Wizards pulled off a minor upset on Tuesday, as they rallied from a halftime deficit to claim the 1-point victory. Cruz Scheinfield (5 points) and Travis Davis were key for the Wizards, as they made big buckets down the stretch. The Suns, who played an incredibly competitive game, were led by Easton Huppertz (4 points) with Zachary Casey and Chase Goolsby each scoring 3 points. Christian Irving added 2 points for the Wizards, who advanced to Thursday’s semifinal.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13th
#3 ROCKETS 11, #2 HEAT 4: The Rockets rode their positive momentum to an upset win over the Heat in the Semifinals. Miles Trice powered the Rockets with 7 points and Isaac Miller chipped in 4 points. The Rockets used tough defense and good ball movement on the offensive end to take down the Heat and advance to the Championship Game. For the Heat, it was just one of those nights where their shots weren’t falling. They also were missing a few key contributors. The Heat were led Ben Ishbia (3 points) and Jonah Zack (1 point).
#1 LAKERS 20, #5 WIZARDS 10: The top-seeded Lakers raced out to an early 15-4 lead and never looked back in this one. Jack Fitzgerald (8 points) and Brady Smith (2 points) fueled a 2nd quarter run that saw the Lakers outscore the Wizards 10-1 to finish the half. The Wizards, who had pulled off an upset in the semifinals, couldn’t recover in the 2nd half, as their bid for a second straight upset came up a little bit short. The Wizards were led by Cruz Scheinfield (7 points) and Javian McCoy (2 points). Hailey Webley, Kaden Kidd and Travis Davis were key players all season for the Wizards. The Lakers were aided by a balanced scoring effort as they booked a trip to the Championship Game. Aaron Davis and Donovan Cheek each scored 3 points, with Eyal Tirosh, Brady Smith and Zaid Qasim each adding 2 points for the Lakers.
#3 ROCKETS 23, #1 LAKERS 4: The Rockets appeared to be a team on a mission Thursday night, as they jumped on the Lakers early and never looked back. An impressive mix of defense, transition scoring and half-court passing helped the Rockets secure another big victory and the Rookie League title. “This Rockets team is a group that got better and better as the season wore on,” said League Director Bryan Bollin. “They learned how to play together and everyone on the team contributed in some way. Based on what we saw throughout this playoff run, they might be one of the best Rookie League teams we have ever had,” he added. Landon Lutz scored a season-high 14 points in the Championship, saving his best game for when it mattered most. Miles Trice added 6 points. The Rockets received important contributions from several players, including Linus Thalman, Emitt Allen and Avery Samuels. For the Lakers, it was a tough way to end an otherwise fantastic season. The Rockets were simply the better team on Thursday night, but the Lakers hung tough and never gave up. Players like Brady Smith and Donovan Cheek kept fighting no matter what and it rubbed off on the rest of their teammates.