By Paul Ce
The Grand Rapids Community College Raiders took on the Glen Oaks Community College Vikings Friday night in a hotly contested game that they narrowly won 85-81 in overtime.
The Raiders were missing big men Diego Robinson and Robert Dohm, forward Evan Block, in addition to assistant coaches Melvin Selmon and John Hunt due to a two game suspension for stepping on the court during the last game. This game though was defined by back and forth action between two teams that were perfectly in stride.
GRCC won the tipoff, but couldn’t score the first points. The Vikings pounced on this opportunity and tried going on a run, but the Raiders matched them bucket for bucket. In the first half alone, the lead changed seven times. Sophomore forward Michael Barnfield led the Vikings with 24 points in the half, picking apart the the Raider’s defense. Sophomore forward Sammie Ryans wouldn’t let the Raiders fall behind though as he and Barnfield traded points like Pokemon cards.
After the game, Ryans elaborated on his mentality coming into the game saying, “I just wanted to hoop hard and play hard. We lost to them last time and I played bad, the whole team played bad and I just said we gotta step on their throats right out the gate.”
Towards the end of the first half, the Raiders started picking up their play as they went on an 11-0 run that sophomore forward Ike Kanu emphasized with a thunderous dunk. This run was fueled by Kanu and his energetic play.
“Everyday I go out and just give 110 percent,” Kanu said. “We don’t let adversity and the things we got going on off the court distract us from getting the win.”
Barnfield wouldn’t let his team fall back too heavily though as he dragged the team back within four points of the Raiders’ lead. The first half ended 39-35 in favor of GRCC.
When the game started back up, it was more of the same from the first half. The Vikings would score and someone from GRCC like freshman guard David Hearns or sophomore guard Willie Otole would get a bucket right back.
Slowly though, GRCC started establishing themselves and was leading for most of the second half. They used crisp passing on offense to keep their play flowing. The Vikings could not find an answer for Otole as he kept getting to the line over and over again. He finished the game 23 points, eight of them coming from the line.
On defense, the Raiders were ferocious coming up with 10 steals and five blocks as a team compared to four steals and two blocks by the Vikings. It seemed that everyone on GRCC’s team stepped up to mitigate the loss of their suspended players and coaches.
As time dwindled down, the Vikings found their mojo again as Barnfield kept his onslaught of points going. The Raiders defended him the best they could, but he was too determined to be stopped. He hit two improbable threes, one of them a bank shot with two defenders in his face to tie the game and send it to overtime.
When the two teams entered overtime, it seemed the script from regulation went out the window as they both could not get the ball to go through the hoop. Both the Raiders and the Vikings seemed gassed, but the Raiders found it within themselves to pull out the win.
The Raiders only need to win three out of their next five games to win their conference. Raiders’ head coach Luke Bronkema stated, “The message (to the guys) will stay the same as it’s been all year, just focus on the next game.” His words seemed to get through to the team as Ryans shared his sentiments, saying, “just keep on focusing on the same goal.”
The Raiders are now 11-2 in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Western Conference and 18-6 overall. They will face the Mid Michigan College Lakers at home in the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse on Monday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m.