Sam Rowley Drops 27; Tuscaloosa Academy Cruises To Victory
The Tuscaloosa Academy Knights held a double header on Tuesday night in which both the boys and the girls teams took on the Heritage Patriots. The Knights won both games against the Patriots, the varsity girls set the tone for the evening with a 42-36 victory and the varsity boys were successful, winning 60-43.
The first half of the girl's game proved to be a defensive struggle as the Knights utilized a full court press while Heritage used an assortment of defenses (1-2-2, 3-2, and 2-3 zones) to throw off the rhythm of Tuscaloosa Academy’s half court set.
A defensive struggle ensued as both teams primarily scored off of turnovers and transition baskets. With scoring being at a premium Sophomore Hill Warr went off on a 5-0 run to end the drought and give the Knights a lead at the half. This was accompanied by Willesha Lang’s 6-point effort in the second quarter.
In the second half the Lady Knights were able to seize the momentum with successful half-court sets, and stifling defense, causing the Patriots to lose control of their offense and overall game plan. The lady Knights were led in scoring by Lang and Warr with 14 points apiece. Freshman Carly King would contribute as a closer and scored 8-of-her-9 points in the 4th quarter.
The second game of the double header featured the varsity boys. Tuscaloosa Academy took care of business as well in a 60-43 win.
Bo Abston set the tone of the game with timely cuts to the rack in the first quarter. This compromised Heritage’s 2-3 zone and allowed for the Knights Defense to get set on the other end. His 7-point output was matched by Sam Rowley who showed his versatility on the offensive end. Using his ball handling to dismantle the defense and get others involved including a key 3-pointer from Carson Claytor to keep a lead heading into the 2nd quarter.
The Patriots didn’t back down however and showed to be a well-coached team who can score effectively at all three levels of the court. When transition baskets were scarce Heritage found a way to feed the post to take advantage of Tuscaloosa’s smaller line up. Mack Howard contributed 10 points and broke down the Knight’s defense with power drives to the basket and solid spot up shooting. Heritage would also seize every opportunity Tuscaloosa gave them and converted Tuscaloosa’s turnovers to points.
The Knights capitalized on a mismatch that wasn’t used during the 1st quarter. Senior Mitch Piper would see a lot more touches in the 2-man game, pick and roll set and produce an effective 6-points in the second quarter. Rowley continued to dominate by draining two 3-pointers in the quarter.
Heritage refused to back down though and caught fire from deep. Sam Hannon hit two 3-pointers himself and help ignite an 11-2 run that cut the Tuscaloosa’s lead to down to two. However, a timely three from Claytor would stop Patriot’s momentum and send the Knights into halftime with momentum and a 5-point lead.
The 3rd quarter was all Sam Rowley. A mixture of size and skill was just too much for the Patriots to handle. He hit 3 from deep and also got to the rack for a smooth and 1 layup that seemed to be the dagger that ended the game.
Rowley led all scorers with 27 points that included six makes from the 3-point line.
“Sam is fearless, I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the state. He can score, he plays great in big games. He can shoot the three and put it on the floor, we go as far as he goes,” said Tuscaloosa Academy Head Coach Barry Sanderson.