The National Junior College Athletic Association District 9 Men’s Basketball tournament began on Tuesday and the Grand Rapids Community College Raiders defeated the Mid-Michigan Community College Lakers 101-80 in Gordon Hunsberger Arena.
It was the third time the Raiders and Lakers have matched up this season with each side taking victories on their home floors. The Raiders earned a gritty 79-76 overtime win when the teams first matched up on Jan. 31. The Lakers returned the favor last week when they won 80-71.
“I think it was a game that we came out focused,” said Raiders Head Coach Luke Bronkema. “I wouldn’t say revenge, I would say this was a game that we knew it was win or go home.”
Tuesday’s win moves the Raiders to 21-9 on the campaign and to a second round matchup with the Jackson College Jets on Thursday at 1 p.m. in Port Huron.
Raiders sophomore guard Curtis Davison sat out the playoff game for disciplinary and academic reasons.
While Davison’s absence was noticed, it was not catastrophic for the Raiders.
The game tipped off with freshman forward Diego Robinson and the Raiders taking the opening possession.
After the squads traded missed baskets on their first possessions, Robinson broke the scoreless tie with a layup following an offensive rebound.
Sophomore guard Zach Pangborn stepped into his expanded role for the game and made the most of it by leading the charge for the Raiders as they led by as many as 15 points in the first half. He finished the first half with a game high of 16 points on 54 percent (6-11) shooting.
“To be honest, that’s what expect out of Zach,” Bronkema said. “We knew with Curtis out, that his role would expand and he came out and did exactly what we knew he would.”
The Lakers made a turnaround in the last 10 minutes of the opening frame. They came back to bring the score to as close as four when the scoreboard read 33-27 in favor of the Raiders.
Freshman guard Jeremiah Davis helped spark a 14-2 run in the last five minutes of the half, he shot 50 percent (3-6) from long range, two of those in the middle of that run for the Raiders, and ended the first half with nine points.
“We knew he had it in him,” Bronkema said. “We had been waiting for that game to come out and (he) hasn’t had as much of an opportunity as he probably would’ve liked, but he got an opportunity tonight and he made the best of it.”
Following the Raiders’ run, the Lakers ended the half on an 8-1 run of their own to cut the Raiders’ lead to 51-39 as the buzzer sounded for halftime, at which point the Lakers led the turnover differential by one after committing just six turnovers to the Raiders’ seven.
The second half opened with a Pangborn-made jumper, which seemed to be rhetoric of the first half and the last couple weeks of the season.
Freshman guard Ca’Nas Coleman made a layup following a defensive rebound from Robinson, and that extended the Raider lead to 55-39.
The Raiders’ following offensive possession was made up of multiple offensive rebounds from Robinson, which ultimately ended when Pangborn was called for a charge on the left block when he was out of control on a drive. The Lakers took advantage of the mistake and closed the Raider lead to 10 points at 55-45 on a 3-pointer from Laker sophomore guard Colton Antes.
Antes made 3-pointers on three consecutive Laker possessions with a pair of long-range jumpers from Pangborn and Davis. The impressive shooting saw the Raiders’ lead dwindle to as few as nine points with over 14 minutes to play.
Foul trouble began to hurt the Raiders late in the game as sophomore guard Darron Ewing Jr. committed four fouls, to go along with freshman guard Sammie Ryans and Coleman committing three apiece.
Both teams went cold shooting midway through the second half, Pangborn broke the field goal drought with a made layup and foul. He ended up missing the free-throw to complete the three point play.
Sophomore guard Anthony McIntosh saw his first action of the night in the second half as he played his final game in Gordon Hunsberger Arena. His impact was felt quickly as he blocked a Laker shot and fired an outlet pass to Coleman, who drove to the basket to complete the fast-break.
As the game drew to a close, each team traded quick runs of four or five points like jabs in a boxing match. But for the Lakers, it was too little, too late.
The Raiders scored 10 of the game’s final 16 points, led the way mostly by McIntosh, who finished with eight points.
“Wow. That pretty much sums it up,” Bronkema said emphatically about his team’s performance. “That was some of the best energy that we’ve had as a team for 40 minutes probably all year, so it’s exciting to see that at this time of the year.”
A total of six different Raiders ended the game in double digits in terms of scoring, the three most notable were Pangborn with a game-high 29, Davis with 17 and Robinson with 13 points and 15 rebounds giving him a double-double.
“We came out, played hard and had energy,” Pangborn said after the game. “That was key for us. We just went to their place last week and we lacked a little bit of energy and the fight to come out and win. But tonight I thought we knew what we needed to do. We came out with the energy and brought home the win.”
The Raiders will now move on to play the Jets in the second round after they defeated the Lake Michigan College Redhawks on Tuesday. The Raiders and Jets will tip-off in the St. Clair Fieldhouse in Port Huron on Thursday at 1 p.m.