By Paul Ce
The Grand Rapids Community College Raiders faced off against the Muskegon Community College Jayhawks Friday night in a tight game which they lost 76-74. It was a physical back and forth affair in which the Raiders came up just short.
GRCC won the tip off to start and immediately it was a rugged game. They were in the paint battling for rebounds, scraping for loose balls, and desperately trying to get the ball in hoop. Muskegon matched well with GRCC in terms of size and length, unafraid of even the Raiders’ twin tower duo of sophomores Diego Robinson and Ike Kanu.
Muskegon then started to pull ahead with buckets from freshman guard Kylan Shipp. He used his speed to create space for his jumpers and floaters that seemed to glide into the rim.
“We couldn’t get the ball to go through the hoop tonight,” said Raiders’ head coach Luke Bronkema after the game,
GRCC shot poorly from the jump, shooting a dismal 36 percent from the field in the first half.
Muskegon’s momentum was kept to a minimum due to the offensive consistency of sophomore guard Willie Otole. Even when his teammates were not doing well, it seemed Otole always provided a guiding hand in keeping them in the game.
Sophomore forward Sammie Ryans then broke out of his funk and hit a three and an and-one jumper on back-to-back plays to bring the game even closer. Muskegon wouldn’t let up though as they held the lead 37-36 going into halftime.
When play resumed after the half, the Jayhawks continued their good play and ripped off a 16-5 run led by Shipp and sophomore guard Jacarius Scott. The two traded buckets going back and forth between them.
GRCC didn’t give in due to leadership from Ryans as Raiders fans have seen many times before. Even though he wasn’t hitting shots, he was providing good defense, keeping the team’s energy up, and even drew a charge that shot a boost of energy to the team and the crowd.
Muskegon kept fighting as Shipp sunk even more shots that negated the buckets that Raiders had fought so hard for. Muskegon head coach Jimmy Booth got a little heated on the sideline though as time dwindled down, getting a technical foul, sending Ryans to the free throw line.
The crowd roared as Ryans hit the first one, but groaned loudly as the second bounced out.
The Raiders got the ball back quickly though as the Jayhawks missed and freshman guard Cam Spicer hit a huge three to tie the game up with 1:03 left.
GRCC looked locked in as Muskegon brought the ball up. The Jayhawks tried their hardest to get to the rim, but their plan was foiled by Spicer as he drew a crucial charge with 39 seconds left on the clock.
GRCC’s efforts were cut short, however, due to Jayhawks’ sophomore forward Josh Smith scoring a put-back layup to go up two. GRCC had two chances to either try to tie or win the game, but missed both as the game ended 76-74.
The Raiders had outrebounded the Jayhawks 65-49 and beat them in the turnover battle 12-15, but still lost. It can be hard for a coach to deliver a post game speech after a tough loss like this where it seemed they did everything they could to win the game. But Bronkema’s message was simple, telling his team “to keep their heads and get ready for the next game.”
GRCC is now 15-6 overall and 8-2 in conference play. They will face Kalamazoo Valley Community College on Monday, Feb. 11, in Texas Township, Michigan at 7:30 p.m.