SAN FRANCISCO — It’s awfully hard to win a basketball game when getting outscored in three out of four quarters, but playing their first official game in over a year and a half, the Lowell boys basketball team found a way to do so on Wednesday afternoon.
The Cardinals outscored host Stuart Hall 24-2 in the second quarter to take a 19-point halftime lead, then held off a furious charge down the stretch to open their season with a 49-45 win.
“We always knew our defense would be ahead of our offense,” Lowell head coach Curtis Chan said. “After our scrimmage, we talked about closing out possessions and getting rebounds.”
Lowell (1-0) was indeed the superior team on the glass throughout that second quarter, outrebounding the Knights 11-4. Stuart Hall’s lone basket of the quarter, a Jake Goodman putback, came off a second chance, but the hosts had just one other offensive rebound in the period.
The Cardinals had just three offensive boards of their own and four second chance points in that quarter, but that was simply because there were hardly any missed shots to rebound. Noa Abuan Andaya, Alex Hedger and Jonathan Takeda all sank threes to open the quarter, and after an Abuan Andaya and-1, Hedger hit a deep rainbow of a shot to open up a 26-14 lead and force Knights head coach Charley Johnson to call timeout.
“Noa’s experience is very crucial to our team,” Chan said. “He’s the only returning player who played varsity two years ago.”
The brief stoppage did little to change the tide. Hedger, who scored 11 of his game-high 17 in the quarter, scored on a putback, and his and-1 with 2:38 left in the quarter stretched the lead to 31-14. Only after a Van Luu drive put Lowell up 19 did Stuart Hall (2-1) finally score on Goodman’s putback, but Troy Smith, who dished out three assists in the quarter, found a cutting Teddy McCarty for one last basket in the final seconds of the half.
Stuart Hall got back into the game midway through the third when Akel scored five straight to kick off a 9-0 run, and the Knights trailed just 39-30 after the quarter when Akel made one of two free throws. In all, he scored 13 and gathered 11 rebounds. Brandon Lum scored 10 of his team-high 16 in the fourth to give the Knights a chance, with a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 41-35. Jackson Jung made one of two to get the hosts within five with 2:55 left, but Luu made two free throws with 2:33 left. Lum responded with two more at the line, but Hedger scored with 59.5 left to prevent things from cascading away from the Cardinals.
The lead got as small as 3 after a Lum putback and the last of Akel’s 13, but Brayden Lee made two of four free throws over the next 10 seconds and Hedger finished things off with two more at the line with 7.9 left to finish the game.
While it was Stuart Hall’s first defeat of the season, there were certainly positives for the Knights, who led 14-8 late in the first and allowed just 21 points across the first, third and fourth quarters.
“That could have been real ugly, and we found a way to fight back,” Johnson said. “I thought the kids did a nice job.”
Stuart Hall’s next game will be on Tuesday, a 5:30 p.m. home tip-off against Half Moon Bay. Lowell’s next time out will also be against a PAL opponent; the Cardinals face Burlingame at 8 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the last of four quarterfinal games at Jefferson’s Blue and Gold Classic.