A pair of unbeaten teams will square off in Thursday night’s Pistons Academy Rookie League Finals, presented by Kroger. This marquee match-up will feature the #1 seed Lakers (4-0) against the #2 seed Heat (4-0). Both teams have handled every challenge thrown their way to this point, setting up a Championship Game that should be one for the ages! The Rookie League Finals will be played on Thursday (March 23rd) at 6pm inside the Franklin Athletic Club gymnasium. The Lakers and Heat both won their Semifinal games on Tuesday evening, improving to 4-0 on the season.
Heat 15, Wizards 14: Following a slow start and first-half that saw just 5 combined points for both teams, the Heat and Wizards picked up the pace. Trailing 3-2 at halftime, the Heat came out firing on all cylinders in the second half. Strong play from Jace Bernard (4 points) and Player of the Game, Zach Kraft (5 points), helped the Heat put some space between themselves and the Wizards early in the second frame. Leading 13-5 with 4 minutes remaining, the Heat looked well on their way to securing a spot in the Championship Game. However, the Wizards displayed the same toughness and determination they have all season long. Thanks to 2 trifectas from their point guard, Jaden Ryke, the Wizards made it very interesting down the stretch. battling back to cut the Heat’s lead to just 2 points, 13-11 with roughly 1 minute remaining. However, Chase Rozenzweig (4 points) and Asher Langwell (2 points) slammed the door shut on the Wizard’s comeback effort by securing a big rebound and a timely steal. Ryke led the Wizards (2-3) in scoring with 7 points, while Max Freedman, Drew Richmond, and Dave Moulder, Jr. each added 2 points. Jayen Bastani knocked down 1 of 2 free throws while also playing his signature tough defense and smart, unselfish basketball on the offensive end. Although it was a disappointing finish to the season for the Wizards, they put up a great fight and gave their fans plenty to cheer about throughout the season. The Heat will look to complete their perfect season in the Rookie League Finals on Thursday against the top-seeded Lakers (Thursday, 6pm).
Lakers 19, Suns 9: The Lakers (4-0) started strong and never looked back on their way to securing a bid in the Rookie League Finals. Player of the Game, Jonah Zekman (7 points), hit the gates running with 4 quick points in the opening minutes of the game. His back-court mate Caleb Starr (6 points) also started strong which allowed the Lakers to jump out to an early 6-2 lead. Lakers’ guard Ethan Tigay (4 points) came off the bench and kept the momentum going. The Lakers led 10-3 at halftime. The Suns (2-3) were able to stay within striking distance all game long, but were unable to come up with a sustained run of their own to tie the game back up. Point guard Alex Ashare (5 points) led the Suns in scoring, with Jermon Johnson and Ethan Citrin each adding a bucket of their own. Just when you thought the Suns might be able to make a run, the Lakers tough defense and ability to protect the basketball kept the Suns at arm’s length. The Sun’s had a nice season, showing an ability to play and compete with any team in the league. Many players showed great improvement over the course of the season, most notably Citrin, Zion Mwanjabala, Connor Gralon, and Edward Hruska. The Lakers earned the right to play in Thursday’s Rookie League Finals, where they are slated to play the undefeated and hot-shooting Heat!
Championship Game: #1 Lakers vs #2 Heat, Thursday (March 23rd), 6pm, Franklin Athletic Club