The Pistons Academy Rookie League Championship took place inside a sold out Franklin Athletic Club gymnasium on Thursday evening. The top two teams during the regular season, the Warriors and Rockets, squared off in a thrilling and exciting Championship game.
#1 WARRIORS 14, #2 ROCKETS 12: The Warriors entered the Championship Game on a 4-game winning streak and looked to ride that momentum to a fifth-straight win and a Championship. The Rockets, however, felt good about their chances against the number one seed. “We have been playing good basketball and are getting better with every game,” said Rockets coach Karl Patrick. “It should be a great test for us tonight [going up against the best team in the league and #1 seed]. I am excited to see our kids come out and play hard and hopefully give themselves a chance to become Champions,” Coach Patrick added. And that they did.
The Rockets jumped out to a 5-2 lead late in the first half and were dictating the tempo and pace of the game. Guard Chaz Perry (5pts, 3reb) displayed great ball control and court vision at the point guard spot, leading his teammates to a nice opening half. A late bucket by the Warriors cut the Rockets lead to just 1 point at halftime (5-4), but it was clear the Warriors needed to make some adjustments.
Following the halftime break, the Warriors went on a 10-2 run and took control of the game. Tyler Robinson (4pts, 2ast) pushed the pace for the Warriors and Mario Wilson Jr. heated up in a hurry as he scored a game-high 6 points. The crowd was loving every bit of it as the Warriors went on their run, and things were getting intense down the stretch. “The crowd was great tonight!” said Warriors coach Teddy Robinson. “Their excitement, encouragement, and support of the players really made it a lot of fun to be a part of this game,” he said.
With the Warriors in control and leading by a score of 14-7, the Rockets needed to make a run. With just under 4 minutes to go in the game, that run began. They were able to pressure the Warriors into some silly turnovers and Ahmir Fullilove (2pts, 6reb) and Landon Nizol (5pts, 4reb) scored some buckets to get the Rockets back within 2 points (14-12). The Warriors turned to some of their up-and-coming stars, Jonah Zack (2pts, 4stl) and Jackson Hanks (2pts, 4reb), to help settle them down and get them to the finish line, but this Rockets team was on a mission. Their full-court pressure really bothered the Warriors and gave themselves a great chance to get back in the game and hopefully tie things up.
With just under 5 seconds remaining, the Warriors were set to inbound the ball on the sideline. A heads-up play and improbable steal from Benicio Martinez-Mark (Defensive Player of the Game) gave the Rockets one more chance to tie it up. However, the shot barely missed and the Warriors escaped with a nail-biting victory (14-12).
Congratulations to both teams on a great season and thank you for a thrilling Championship Game! The Pistons Academy Rookie League returns next fall. For more info on current and future programs, please visit www.pistonsacademy.com or contact us at 248-377-8653.