The sophomore hit nothing but net with about 28 seconds left in the game. The 3-pointer — Rowlinson’s fourth of Friday’s game — gave the Roughriders a 41-40 home win over Plymouth (6-8, 4-5) at Western Reserve High School.
The Big Red’s Jacob Adams had an open look from three-point land at the top of the key in the closing seconds. But his attempt fell short.
With the victory, Western kept its unbeaten Firelands Conference streak alive, improving to 9-0 in league play and 10-4 overall.
“They had a lot of momentum and belief throughout the 32 minutes and we were just fortunate enough to be tough enough to make the last possession count. We got another big shot from Luke, but they got a great look to come right back down and take the lead right back; we’re just fortunate they missed it,” Western coach Chris Sheldon said.
“Then we did an outstanding job in our late game there to be able to run the clock out,” he added. “There’s not a lot of kids who can be 2-of-10 from three at that point and still want to shoot the game-winner and that young man (Rowlinson) caught the ball with the belief that ‘Hey, I still want the ball regardless of what’s happened previously.’ (That’s) a lot of confidence and you get confidence with the way you practice.”
Rowlinson led all scorers with 15 points. Western sophomore John Skrada added 12.
“I felt if we could get the lead, my kids had enough gusto in them to get a stop,” Plymouth coach Derrick Shelenberger said. “(Rowlinson) hit a shot from pretty far out; I don’t think there’s much else we could have done differently on that play other than block the shot or steal the ball. And then with us not fouling in the second half, they were able to run out the clock.
“We had a good look down here. I’ll take Jake shooting the ball a hundred times,” he added.
The Big Red had the early lead, 7-2, but by 1:06 left in the first quarter, Western went on a 5-0 run to tie the game. Plymouth took a 10-7 advantage into the second quarter.
The visiting Big Red went on a 7-0 run and had a 14-7 lead with 6:43 until halftime. Western answered again, this time with senior Aiden Markley going on a personal 5-0 sprint to cut Plymouth’s advantage to 19-14.
“When we take good, smart shots and we get stops on defense, usually we can string them together back to back. Yeah, you’ve got to score to win games, but if you get a score and a stop, you know, you can change the momentum and you can get things going your way and you can go on runs,” Shelenberger said.
“Tonight we were trying to grind the pace down because we didn’t want to get up and down with them,” he added. “We wanted to limit the possessions and see if we could beat them that way. If we made some free throws, maybe that works.”
Western went into the locker room at halftime, leading 23-19.
“I think their kids did a great job of trying to execute a game plan of really spreading the fall, being patient, trying to get themselves in situations where they thought they had the advantage and I thought their kids did an outstanding job of that,” Sheldon said.
The ’Riders had a 31-30 lead to end the third quarter.
“They approached us with a different game plan than they did the first time, so we had to adjust. We didn’t adjust real well right out of the gate and they got some shots and gained some confidence in the plan — and that made it a ball game now,” said Sheldon, who believes the key to victory was the way his players “clawed and scratched our way back into the thing” in the second quarter.
“And we had to do that at the defensive end because we were down by 10. That run for us — to go from down 10 to be up by four at half — was a huge momentum swing for us.
“They are a very good basketball team, from the standpoint that they have one of the best players in the league with the Adams kid. They have a great complement at lead guard in Walker Elliott, who played outstanding tonight and they got another four-year letter-winner in (Kade) Collins, who is a very good player,” Sheldon said.
“Walker and Collins were exceptional tonight. Adams just got in foul trouble and could never really get it going in rhythm. That was a huge key for us, being able to hold him to seven (points).”
In junior varsity action, Western also won, 48-35. Sophomore Adam Lewis led the pack with 18 points. Freshman Matt Jarrett contributed 13.
Plymouth freshman Josh Baebe scored 10 points.
The Big Red continues FC play by hosting South Central.
“We understand with this loss (vs. Western), the Firelands Conference is out the window, but we want a team to be afraid to go next to us in tournament,” Shelenberger said.
Western hosts Ashland Crestview next Friday.
Follow Reflector staff writer Cary Ashby on Facebook at “Cary Ashby — reporter & comic book blogger” and on Twitter at @Cary_reporter.
PLYMOUTH (6-8, 4-5)
Anthony Montgomery 2-3—8; Walker Elliott 1-4—6; Jacob Adams 3-1—7; Black Gibson 4-0—9; Brody Brown 1-0—3; Kade Collins 3-0—7. TOTALS 14-8—40.
WESTERN RESERVE (10-4, 9-0)
JJ Weisenberger 2-0—5; John Skrada 5-0—12; Aiden Markley 3-1—7; Luke Rowlinson 5-2—15; Hayden Huntington 1-0—2. TOTALS 16-3—41.
Plymouth 10 9 11 10 — 40
Western 7 16 8 10 — 41
3-point FGs: (P) Montgomery, Gibson, Brown, Collins; (WR) Skrada (2), Rowlinson (3)
JV: W. Reserve 48-35