On Wednesday evening, the Pistons Academy Rookie League, presented by Kroger, held Round 1 of the Rookie League Playoffs inside the gymnasium at Franklin Athletic Club in Southfield. The opening round featured four teams fighting for a chance to play in Tuesday (March 21st) evening’s Semifinals.
Wizards 18, Celtics 11: The Celtics entered Wednesday night’s opening round of the playoffs as the #6 seed and still searching for their first win. Despite a tough, determined, and commendable effort from the Celtics, the Wizards were able to avoid the upset. Paced by the stellar play of Drew Richmond, the Wizards jumped out to an early 12-3 lead. Richmond dominated the offensive glass and was able to convert the rebounds into easy points. He led all scorers with a career-high 12 points, which is also the highest output of any player this season, en route to being named Player of the Game. Donovan Cheek played tough defense and Jayen Bastani did a little bit of everything for the Wizards, who will play in Tuesday night’s Semifinals against the #2 seeded Heat at 6pm. The Celtics rallied late in the second half behind the strong play of point guard Jordan Scott, who was able to find his groove on the offensive end and score 8 second-half points. For the Celtics, it was a disappointing season in the win-loss column but there was a lot of individual and collective growth throughout the course of the season. The Celtic’s players will head into the off-season hungry to improve and return with a vengeance next season.
Suns 20, Rockets 16 (OT): This instant classic featured the #4 seed Suns taking on the #5 seed Rockets. A furious fourth quarter comeback, capped by Benjamin Smith’s baseline layup with less than 30 seconds remaining forced overtime in this tightly contested game. After trailing 10-2 at the halftime break, the Rockets made some adjustments and started lighting up the scoreboard in the second half, outscoring the Suns 14-6 in the second half. Devin Warren (6 points) led the comeback for the Rockets, along with Most Improved Player Zachary Wells (4 points). Following regulation, the Suns were able to settle down and refocus, a testament to their leadership and coaching. Alex Ashare scored a beautiful layup to regain the lead early in overtime, capping off a great night for the Sun’s point guard. He finished with a career-high 10 points. Zion Mwanjabala (6 points) was a terror inside the paint, and the Suns held on for a 20-16 victory. It was a tough finish to a great game for the Rockets, but they walked off the court with their heads held high knowing they put up a great fight. The Suns advance to play the top-seeded Lakers on Tuesday (March 21st) evening at 7pm.