By Jeremy Balan
The Stuart Hall High School boys basketball team was in command with a 13-2 lead after the first quarter in its season opener on the road against Lowell, but the Knights probably didn’t realize at the time that they only needed one more basket to outscore the Cardinals on Wednesday night.
The Knights went through their own extended cold shooting spell, but the Cardinals never snapped out of theirs in a 40-13 Stuart Hall win.
Lowell (0-1) shot just over 10 percent from the floor, including 1-for-23 from three-point range, and didn’t score more than five points in any quarter.
Most of Lowell’s offensive struggles were simply due to missed perimeter shots, but the Cardinals also struggled to penetrate against an athletic Stuart Hall defense. When they did, they had shots altered or blocked by the Knights’ lanky forwards.
“The outside shots were definitely not falling,” said first-year Lowell head coach Wyman Lee. “We expect to make at least 20 or 30 percent of those, but we also knew that every time we drove it in, we had some trees we had to deal with.”
After the first quarter, the Knights (1-0) went through their cold streak, connecting on just 3-of-21 shots from the field in the second and third quarters. Stuart Hall led 23-8 after the third, but standout sophomore Armani Collins came alive in the fourth to put the game away.
Collins had 11 of his game-high 15 points in the fourth quarter to spur a 17-5 Stuart Hall run in the final frame.
“It wasn’t pretty, but [the fourth quarter] was pretty good,” said Stuart Hall head coach Charles Johnson. “We’ve been emphasizing defense, so we’ll take that as a positive, but we still have a long way to go.”
With 10 rebounds, Collins had a double-double, as did 6-foot-4 senior forward Matt McCrum, who was the most consistent scoring and rebounding threat for the Knights. McCrum finished with 11 points and a team-high 14 rebounds.
“Matty is a heck of an athlete,” Johnson said. “He’s probably our best defensive player and he has a little trouble finishing and with free throws, but he’s a heck of a player. He’s a team leader for sure.”
The undersized Cardinals don’t have a player over 6-foot-2 and settled for outside shots often, in part, by design. If Lowell is to be successful in the Academic Athletic Association, those shots will have to hit with regularity.
“This year, we’re looking to make quite a few from the outside to stay competitive,” Lee said. “This might be a constant struggle throughout the season. We have guys who are streaky shooters. There’s no one with a pure stroke, but we’re working on shooting every day.”
The Knights, which sat 6-foot-5 senior center Andreas Peritos (injury) and 6-foot-7 junior center Jose Vargas (transfer eligibility), were at their best with Collins in rhythm, but looked their worst when he went through a 22-minute scoring drought.
“Armani was a first-team all-league player and I have a sneaky feeling he’ll repeat that feat,” Johnson said. “There are a few other guys that can really play. We’re not going to put it all on his shoulders, for sure.”
Armani Collins – 15
Matt McCrum – 11
Rodney McKinney – 5
Tyler Ryan – 3
Three players tied with 2 points
Alex Hsiao – 5
Sammy Pollard – 3
Kendall Smith – 3
Jason Ho – 2