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Raiders’ title hopes ended by Ancilla in NJCAA Region XII District 9 championship game

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GRCC men's basketball player Ike Kanu slamming home a dunk during the Raiders' 93-70 loss to the Ancilla College Chargers in the NJCAA Region XII District 9 championship game on Saturday, March 9 at the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse in Grand Rapids. (Aaron Stoner/The Collegiate)

The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team had high hopes of making it to the national tournament this year, but those hopes were dashed Saturday night when they fell to the Ancilla College Chargers 93-70 in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XII District 9 championship game at the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse.

The Raiders came out of the gate quick scoring the game’s first five points in the first minute of the game. But Ancilla set the tone for the game early, always having an answer for everything the Raiders threw at them.

Ancilla went on a 6-0 run after the Raiders’ 5-0 start. The entire first half was close with neither team leading by more than seven points. The Raiders were up 20-16 at the halfway point of the first half, but the Chargers rattled off a 12-2 run to take a 28-22 lead of their own. The Raiders never held a lead after allowing that run and trailed 42-37 at the break.

The Raiders played the game without their starting point guard, freshman David Hearns. He was hit with two technicals and ejected in Friday night’s game which carries an automatic one-game suspension.

Sophomore guard Willie Otole talked about the impact Hearns’s absence had on the team.

“I mean that’s one of our key starters,” Otole said. “So that kind of put us in a tough spot. For someone that makes plays for everyone else and makes it a little bit easier, that’s pretty tough.”

Raiders’ head coach Luke Bronkema agreed with Otole saying losing Hearns, “was a really tough loss, and I think that was the intention.” Bronkema didn’t elaborate, but continued to say, “There’s a lot of lessons learned there for me being on the targeted end.”

Bronkema received a technical in Friday night’s game from the same referee who gave both technicals to Hearns. Saturday night, it was a different officiating crew, but more of the same.

The Chargers began to pull away around the 15-minute mark and late in the second half, they opened up a 21-point lead. With just under three minutes to go in the game, Bronkema was hit with a technical. The Raiders called a timeout, and just 38 seconds later, Bronkema was hit with another technical and ejected from the game.

Bronkema talked about the ejection and explained why he received the two technical fouls.

“Verbatim what I said was… ‘Hey, you’re looking at him grabbing his hand, are you not calling it because the game is too far out of hand?’ and he gave me a technical,” Bronkema said. “The next time down the floor I asked him, ‘Man, you needed to give me that, you were just waiting for it weren’t you?’ and then he gave me the second one. It’s a lot of history there. Obviously, you’re in a powerless position as a coach.”

Bronkema’s ejection came at a point where the game was all but over. The Raiders were in the game for a majority of the night, but foul trouble seemed to allow the Chargers to take over the game.

Bronkema seemed to take another jab at the officials in his postgame comments when addressing the team’s foul trouble.

“We had some guys pick up some touch-fouls,” Bronkema said. “That definitely impacts their ability to be aggressive on defense as well as rebounding, too.”

Sophomore Diego Robinson fouled out of the game while Ike Kanu and Cam Spicer each finished the game with four fouls.

The loss ends the Raiders’ season and Otole took a moment to reflect on the season and his time with GRCC.

“I’ve had a great year,” Otole said. “I had a great year last year… It didn’t end up how we wanted it to, but in terms of the staff and my teammates, it was a great season and I had great people around.”

Bronkema also reflected on the season and talked about how proud he was of this team both on the court and off it.

“I couldn’t be prouder, it’s a great group of guys,” Bronkema said. “They came together and just bonded and played really well together and more importantly, they got the job done off the court. Again, just a great group of guys that I really enjoyed being around. It’s still a championship season. It’s a little bitter-sweet today, but very, very proud of the group as a whole.”

The Raiders won the Michigan Community College Athletic Association Western Conference championship this year, the program’s first since the 2003-2004 season.

There were three Raiders named to the NJCAA Region XII all-tournament team this postseason. Sophomore Mya Jordan of the GRCC women’s basketball team received NJCAA Region XII District G All-Tournament honors, while Otole and Kanu were both named to the District 9 All-Tournament team on the men’s side.

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