The Pistons Academy Rookie League, presented by Kroger, reached the midpoint of the season on Thursday evening. Each team looked to build some positive momentum heading into the NBA All-Star Weekend and mid-winter break (Rookie League is OFF next week and will resume on March 2nd). The Lakers, Suns, Rockets, and Celtics were in game action while the Heat and Wizards got some valuable practice time. “This is shaping up to be a great final half of the season as we build up to the playoffs next month. All six teams have made steady improvement and the games are getting closer and closer. We had two tremendous games this evening (Thursday) that came down the final minute. It was a great night of Pistons Academy basketball!” said League Director Bryan Bollin.
Lakers 12, Suns 8: The Lakers outlasted the Suns in a game that was tied 6-6 at halftime. Behind strong bench play and a gritty second half defensive performance, the “Lakeshow” were able to outscore their opponents 6-2 in the second stanza. Player of the Game, Ethan Tigay, was instrumental in organizing the Lakers offense, displaying a nice ability to handle the ball in traffic and work his way through the defense. In his post-game interview, Ethan stated, “I felt that passing the ball would help and if I had the open shot I could take it.” Wise words from Tigay, and a great reminder that the game of basketball is seldom as difficult as we sometimes make it out to be. Steady player and ball movement, combined with a willingness to pass and make the right play typically results in success on the offensive end. Caleb Starr led the way for the Lakers (2-0) with 6 points, Tigay added 4 points, and Brady Klein contributed 2 points. The Suns (0-2) were the beneficiaries of a great performance from Ethan Citrin, who consistently pushed the ball up the floor and put pressure on the defense to get back in transition. Citrin even got a nice running layup to go from the right side, the first Rookie League points of his promising young career. Ultimately, the Lakers second half effort was too much to overcome for the Suns, who drifted off into the night sky still searching for their first win of the season. However, keep an eye on this team in the second half of the season as they have shown signs of being a very competitive team. Alex Ashare (2 points) and Brody Nagaj (4 points) were bright spots for the Suns, along with Citrin (2 points). Both teams are off next week due to the midwinter break of many area schools.
Rockets 14, Celtics 13: In the final minute of this tightly contested game, Ben Smith corralled an offensive rebound and put it right back up and in for 2 of his game-high 8 points in what proved to the game-winner for the Rockets (1-1). It was the first game-winning shot of Smith’s Rookie League career, one that capped a fantastic second half comeback for the Rockets. Trailing 11-6 at the halftime break, the Rockets needed to make some adjustments. The Celtics (0-2) were off to a strong start behind the strong play of Noah Katzman (2 points) and Jordan Scott (5 points). Scott dictated the tempo of the first half, as he controlled the ball well and found many open looks at the basket. Hudson Rosner and Tarek Agha (6 points) made positive contributions on both ends of the floor, and the Celtics were in a good place at halftime. However, the Rockets really turned up their defensive pressure in the second half and made the key adjustments necessary to propel them to a 8-2 advantage in the second half. For the Rockets, Damon Richmond (2 points) was able to orchestrate the offense in the second half, even finding some drives to the basket of his own. He hit a big layup from the right side in the second half. The comeback was also aided by the strong play of Christian Banks (2 points) and Hayden Schwartzenfeld (2 points). Devin Warren played a solid all-around game despite being a focal point of the Celtic’s defense. The Celtics improved greatly from last week’s game, but just couldn’t withstand the Rocket’s furious second half rally and stop their momentum. Last night’s game had the atmosphere of a playoff game, which will serve both teams well come playoff time as they prepare to play under pressure and with a large, excitable crowd! Both teams are off next week due to the midwinter break of many area schools.
Reminder: There are no practices or games next Thursday (Feb. 23rd). League play will resume on Thursday, March 2nd.
Midwinter Madness Basketball Camp: Looking for something to do next week? Franklin Athletic Club and Coach Bryan Bollin will be holding the Midwinter Madness Basketball Camp, Monday through Wednesday from 9am-3pm, at Franklin Athletic Club in Southfield. This camp is open to players in grades 2-11 and will feature skill instruction, contests, and games. For more information, please visit www.franklinclub.com or call (248) 352-8000 Ext 267.