12/31/2013 11:18:00 AM Maroons rally past Rockville for 44-42 win
Robinson’s Michael Akande (44) goes up for two of his game-high 17 points following a steal in the first quarter of Thursday’s first-round game against Rockville at the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic in Terre Haute. Akande led the Maroons with 17 points, nine rebounds, four steals, four blocked shots and two assists, as they rallied for a 44-42 win. (Josh Brown photo)
Personnel may have been different from a year ago, but that did not stop Robinson and Rockville from playing a close, entertaining game in the first round of this year's Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic.
The Maroons and Rox combined to have just three players who played when they met for the championship of last year's tournament, but the two teams battled to the wire once again. This time though, Robinson was able to come out on top, as they rallied for a 44-42 win to avenge last year's title game loss and advance to the quarterfinals of this year's event.
"We hung in there, gutted it out and made plays when we needed to," RHS head coach Mack Thompson said. "We got the final result we wanted and that's really all you can ask for."
Both teams got off to a slow start in the final game of eight on the day, as neither team scored for more than two minutes. Connor Griffin put the first points on the board with two free throws at the 5:46 mark, while Rockville scored their first basket 11 seconds later. It was more than two minutes before anyone else scored, as Parker Bopp hit a layup off a backdoor fee from Noah Tennison to put the Maroons in front 4-2 with 3:27 to play. Rockville then scored five points in 24 seconds, as Keiontre Wilkey hit a three-pointer, then converted a steal into a layup to put the Rox ahead, 7-4, with 2:31 to play. Bopp countered with a layup with 2:02 remaining, then Michael Akande turned a steal into a layup a minute later and the Maroons held an 8-7 edge after one quarter of play.
A three-pointer by Tennison pushed the RHS lead to 11-7 and the Maroons held a 15-10 advantage after an Akande layup at the 5:06 mark, but Rockville ended the period on a 9-3 run, including a long three-pointer by Wilkey with 3.5 seconds left to give the Rox a 19-18 lead at halftime.
Rockville continued the momentum in the third quarter, scoring the first six points to extend their advantage to 25-18. After a basket by Landen Hoagland, Rockville scored the next four points to push the margin to 29-20 with 3:20 remaining. The lead was still nine in the final minute, but a three-pointer by Griffin pulled the Maroons to within 35-29 heading into the fourth quarter.
A basket by Rockville 18 seconds into the final period made the score 37-29, but the Maroons clamped down on defense after that and would hold the Rox scoreless for the next six minutes. During that stretch, Robinson scored 13 straight points to regain the lead. Another three-pointer by Griffin started the run, then Wes Harrison scored in the lane and Akande turned a steal into a dunk to close the gap to 37-36 with 5:51 remaining. A backdoor feed from Tennison to Bopp led to a layup that put the Maroons back in front, 38-37, with 5:03 to go, the Akande tipped in a missed three-pointer by Griffin and Bopp drove baseline for another layup to extend the RHS lead to 42-37 with 2:27 left.
Wilkey countered for Rockville with a three-pointer at the 1:29 mark, then turned a steal into a layup with 1:14 to play, tying the game at 42-42.
After a miss by Robinson, Rockville had the ball with less than a minute to go and appeared content to try to hold for the final shot. However, Griffin knocked the ball away from Wilkey and was fouled on his way to the basket with 32.4 seconds left. Griffin would hit the first free throw, but missed the second, giving Robinson a 43-42 lead. Landen Hoagland would then get a steal and Robinson called a time-out with 17.8 seconds left. Dylan Dirks was fouled with 10.5 seconds left and made one of two free throws to push the lead to 44-42. Robinson would commit a foul with 5.1 seconds left, but Rockville threw the ball out of bounds on the ensuing inbounds pass. Tennison was then fouled with 1.6 seconds left, but he missed the front end of a one-and-bonus opportunity. However, Griffin rebounded the ball and it was knocked out of bounds with .3 seconds left. Robinson was then able to successfully inbound the ball and hold on for the win.
"The objective in these tournaments is to win and move on and that's what we did," Thompson said. "They don't give out a Miss Congeniality Award for the prettiest wins. Hopefully this is a turning point for our team, to not play as well as we can and still find a way to win."
Robinson was efficient shooting the ball from the field, as they made 17-32 field goal attempts (53 percent), including 14-22 from two-point range (64 percent) and 3-10 from three-point range (30 percent). Rockville was 17-37 from the floor (46 percent), which included 13-27 from inside the arc (48 percent) and 4-10 from long distance (40 percent). However, the Maroons continue to struggle at the free throw line, but they were still able to make enough down the stretch to help them pick up the victory. Robinson was 7-14 at the charity stripe (50 percent), while Rockville made 4-7 foul shots (57 percent).
"We made enough to secure the win, but hopefully we will get through this funk soon and start knocking them down," Thompson said. "We make them all the time in practice. We just have to get mentally tougher and go to the line with a confident mind-set."
Akande led RHS with 17 points, nine rebounds, four steals, four blocked shots and two assists, while Bopp posted 10 points, two rebounds and one blocked shot. Griffin totaled nine points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists, Tennison contributed three points, six assists, two steals and one blocked shot, Hoagland netted two points, five rebounds, five steals and three assists, Harrison added two points and one steal and Dirks scored one point.
"Michael had a nice game for us," Thompson said. "Connor made some big plays for us, offensively and defensively. He hit a couple of big threes and got the big steal at the end to help us get the lead back."
Wilkey led Rockville with 15 points, five steals, four assists and two rebounds, while Lance Hopkins posted 10 points, four rebounds and two steals.
Robinson (5-4) will play Sullivan, who crushed Turkey Run in their first round game, 74-25, in the quarterfinals of the Pizza Hut Wabash Valley Classic tonight at 7:30.
"We have a tough task ahead of us," Thompson said. "They are big, quick and can shoot it. It will be a regional/sectional type atmosphere and it will be a good test for us."
Also in Thursday's first round, South Vermillion beat Riverton Parke 43-40, Northview edged Linton-Stockton 52-50, Owen Valley downed West Vigo 54-48, Terre Haute North handled Shakamak 61-44, Casey-Westfield blasted Monrovia 71-38 and Terre Haute South hammered Marshall 78-39.
Should the Maroons win tonight, they would play the winner of Casey-Westfield and Terre Haute South at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals. A loss would put the Maroons against the Casey-Westfield-Terre Haute South loser at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.