SPANISH FORK Having great athleticism is a valuable asset on the basketball court.
A little luck doesn't hurt either.
With both of those elements on their side, the American Leadership Eagles used a strong opening to the third quarter and a strong finish Wednesday night to knock off Rowland Hall 49-44 in the Region 14 boys basketball opener for both squads. The game was actually much closer than the final score, which just happened to be ALA's widest lead of the game.
"For three quarters out there, that was not my team," Eagles coach Joel Martinez said. "We looked exhausted. But it's always a better feeling to get a win, than a loss."
The game was a contrast in styles. For most of the game, Rowland Hall was outstanding in its half-court offense of running plays that resulted in high-percentage shots. Even though the game was tied eight times and the lead changed hands 10 times, the Winged Lion appeared in control for a good share of the contest behind the inside scoring of Zach Arthur and the penetrating baskets of Jared Accettura.
Late in the second quarter Rowland Hall led 25-18, the biggest lead by either team.
"They are a well-coached team. And they played us like we were the Lakers," Martinez said.
In the third quarter, however, the Eagles turned up the defensive pressure, which forced the Winged Lion into a few turnovers and had them starting to fire up outside shots instead of getting better looks in the paint. The Eagles, behind David Armendariz and Raul Delgado, began attacking the basket off the dribble and either drawing fouls or getting to the hoop for an easy score. With an 8-0 run, which ended with Seth Weber's banker from about 10 feet, ALA took a 28-27 lead.
For the next quarter the game was a back-and-forth affair until back-to-back lay-ins by Daniel Livsey put Rowland Hall up 40-37 with less than three minutes remaining. The next three possessions, however, went in ALA's favor. The shot that got things going was a 3-pointer from the left wing by Brady Mower that banked in. The shot tied the score 40-40 and even had Mower shaking his head. Still, Martinez praised his senior point guard for showing confidence to take the open shot.
"That put us right back in the game," he said.
Seconds later, Delgado was fouled on a put-back basket and the free throw put the Eagles ahead 44-40. Rowland Hall cut the lead to 45-44 with 42 seconds left when Accettura made a driving scoop shot, but when the Eagles broke the ensuing press for an easy basketball by Rogelio Castaneda they stayed ahead for good. Rowland Hall did miss three shots in close in the closing seconds, but passed up on two open looks from behind the arc when needing a 3-pointer to tie.
"I hope this one gets us prepared for the state tournament," Martinez said. "But we have a lot of work to do and a long ways to go. Athleticism is not going to be everything."Armendariz led all scorers with 17, while Delgado tossed in 13 for ALA. Arthur led Rowland Hall with 15 and Accettura added 13. A big difference in the game came from the free-throw line, where the Eagles made 13 of 20, while the Winged Lion hit three of four.