Gardendale has had a problem with finishing what they started in boys basketball.
Marcus Merriweather exacerbated that problem Friday night.
The Pinson Valley guard took command of the game, scoring 31 points as the Indians overcame a nine-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to defeat the Rockets 70-67.
Merriweather hit 10-of-21 shots from the floor, including 3-of-6 from 3-point territory, and was a perfect 8-for-8 from the foul line.
“When we need a basket, it seems like he’s always the one to get [it],” Pinson coach Clint Argo said. “The kid’s just a player. He handles the ball well, and shoots really well.”
Gardendale got out to a quick start, scoring 11 points against a solitary Merriweather trey in the first four minutes, forcing Argo to call an early time out to regroup. The Indians came back to tie the game at the end of the period, but the Rockets surged again late in the first half, largely on the strength of a pair of Allen Williams 3-pointers.
Gardendale drew further away in the third, but Valley cut the margin to one in short order, thanks to threes from Merriweather and Zach Jackson. The Rockets drew away again, only to see the Indians draw even, then take the lead for good when Devin Gary picked the pocket of Gardendale sixth man Juan Jackson. Gary missed the basket, but Juan Jackson was called for goaltending and the Indians were ahead for good.
The Rockets had one last chance in the waning seconds, but had to send Zach Jackson to the line with 11.6 seconds, only to watch him calmly sink both free throws.
It was another frustrating loss in the late going for Gardendale coach Ryan Griffin.
“We played the best we’ve played, and were up nine in the fourth, but we didn’t play very smart after that,” Griffin said. “But Merriweather is the best player we’ve seen so far. I thought we did a pretty good job on him in the first half, but he hits a lot of shots that are stuff to defend.”
Johnathan Marable and Zach Jackson contributed 11 points each for the Indians (6-3).
Williams had a double-double night with 17 points, going 3-for-3 form the 3-point arc, and also handing out 10 assists. He also had six rebounds for the Rockets (3-6).
Trey Evans scored 16 points and Juan Jackson had 14.