After carrying the load of his team's offense for most of the first half, Luke Rowlinson hit two huge 3-pointers late in the third quarter to keep the momentum in Western Reserve's corner.
Once Rowlinson seized the momentum, his teammates took over in a 59-50 Roughriders’ win over Huron in non-league action on Saturday.
"We played to what we believe we are," Western Reserve coach Chris Sheldon said. "That is probably the first time since opening weekend against a really good Firelands team that we played that well against a good team in all phases."
In the third quarter, Western Reserve (9-2) watched a double-digit lead evaporate in about two-plus minutes as Michael Holm heated up for the Tigers (8-2). Holm hit his second triple of the quarter before Drew Wennes scored. Holm nailed another 3-pointer as Sheldon called timeout.
Rowlinson answered the call, but Holm hit his fourth and fifth 3s of the quarter to surge Huron ahead, 45-44. But Rowlinson had the final answer as his triple as time expired gave the 'Riders a two-point lead after three quarters.
"Huron went on that run in the third quarter after we pushed it up," Sheldon said. "They are a good team, and good teams are going to go on a run. I thought after that timeout, Luke Rowlinson does what Luke Rowlinson does and buries a three. That’s how you respond."
Western Reserve's defense was just as key in the final eight minutes. Huron looked to continue its hot shooting from outside, but to no avail as the 'Riders buckled down. Rowlinson made two free throws and Jude Muenz hit a 3 in the first minute of the fourth quarter for a 52-45 lead.
"I just came out shooting it," Rowlinson said. "I haven’t been shooting it well the past few games. You have to keep shooting it. When they were up on me, I wanted to drive and kick it if they collapse. My teammates did a great job getting me the ball and I tried to make all the shots."
The run for Western did not stop there. John Skrada scored then added a three-point play. Muenz scored again for a 15-0 run over 5:34 of game.
"They shot the ball very well," Huron coach Bobby James said. "That is going to be tough to beat. I didn’t think we shot the ball as well in the fourth quarter as we did in the first couple quarters. I think our legs got tired."
The Tigers finally got on the board in the quarter when Drew Wennes twice split two free throws. Matthew Hurst connected on a 3-pointer for Huron's only field goal of the fourth quarter with 20 seconds left.
"I thought we needed to make Rowlinson put it on the deck instead of letting him get looks at the three-point line," James said. "I thought we would put a bigger guy on him, but we did not do a very good job with that. He got some good looks."
The Tigers led most of the first quarter and opened a 18-11 lead after back-to-back 3s from Wennes and Holm. As he did all night, Rowlinson answered with a triple to give him 12 points in the first quarter. Huron led, 20-14, after eight minutes.
Western Reserve played well early in the second quarter. The 'Riders ripped off the first seven points of the quarter capped on a 3 from Skrada. Huron bounced back to take a 26-25 lead, but Matt Jarrett made two 3-pointers and Rowlinson scored off of a steal for a 35-28 lead at halftime for the ‘Riders.
"We have played well in spurts at times this year," Sheldon said. "One of the biggest keys to catapulting us tonight was Thursday night. We were down one on the road to a team that you are supposed to beat and our kids played the best 16 minutes of the year on Thursday night. They carried that into finally 32 minutes tonight."
Holm tallied 23 points while Hurst and Wennes each had eight points. Nic Ritzler was held to six points and 10 rebounds.
"We shot too many 3s," James said. "We did not attack as much as we should have. We did not attack very well and we settled from the three-point line."
Rowlinson finished with 25 points and nine rebounds. Muenz backed that with 12 points while Skrada added 10 points for the Roughriders.
"We have been talking for two weeks since our two losses about how about we respond to adversity," Sheldon said. "A playmaker's mentality is not just scoring. It is rebounding or coming up with a loose ball. It is making the right defensive rotation. Tonight, all five on the floor were just tremendous at that. When you play with that volume of execution in terms of how sharp you are and you do not defeat yourself, you beat good teams."
Matthew Hurst 3-0—8, Jimmy Harkelroad 2-0—5, Michael Holm 7-2—23, Drew Wennes 2-3—8, Nic Ritzler 2-2—6. TOTALS 16-7—50.
WESTERN RESERVE (9-2)
Luke Wyers 2-0—4, John Skrada 3-3—10, Jude Muenz 5-0—12, Luke Rowlinson 8-3—25, Matt Jarrett 2-0—6, Cory Hipp 1-0—2. TOTALS 21-6—59.
Huron 20 8 17 5 — 50
W. Reserve 14 21 12 12 — 59
3-point FGs: (H) Holm 7, Hurst 2, Harkelroad, Wennes; (WR) Rowlinson 6, Muenz 2, Jarrett 2, Skrada