By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team faced-off against nationally ranked and undefeated Ancilla College on Friday, March 12, losing, 96-73. Their record is now 4-3.
After upsetting Delta College on Wednesday, the Raiders looked to start out fast against the Chargers, who are ranked third in the nation per the most recent National Junior College Athletic Association rankings.
However, things didn’t go to plan for GRCC, as Ancilla shot 8 for 15 from behind the 3-point line in the first half.
“They just made shots, you know, they had 14 3-pointers and for most of them, they were kind of rushed, quick ones and they just knocked them down,” said Jeff Bauer, head coach of the GRCC men’s basketball team. “I think we did a pretty good job of contesting them, but they just made shots today.”
From the opening tip, the teams were locked into a back-and-forth battle as neither team wanted to give the other an edge. GRCC sophomore Malik Clincy opened the scoring in the game, draining a contested layup through contact. Ancilla sophomore Rico Swanson Jr. quickly answered with a 3-pointer from the wing, to which GRCC sophomore Darien Banks responded with a deep three of his own, and we were off to the races.
Throughout the first 17 minutes of the game, the Raiders were able to maintain pace and stay within two points of the Charger. But as the final seconds of the half ticked away, Ancilla was able to bury three 3-pointers to take an 11-point lead into halftime.
“I feel like we got hit in the mouth, at the start of the game and a little bit in the first half, and we just didn’t respond well,” said GRCC sophomore Isaac Anderson, after the game. “I feel like we kind of hung our heads a little. Usually, we bounce back and come together, tonight we kind of fell apart. We came together, it was just a little too late. Next time, with good teams like that we can’t fall apart.”
Once play had resumed in the second half, things went from bad to worse for the Raiders, as Ancilla’s hot shooting streak continued. With 15 minutes left in the game, Clincy picked up his fourth foul.
With Clincy in foul-trouble, GRCC was stabilized by the play of Anderson, freshman Azyah Brown and sophomore Richard Major, as the Ancilla lead grew to 22 points with 10:23 left on the clock. At that moment Clincy picked up his fifth foul and was forced to exit the game. Instead of hanging his head, Clincy kept himself locked into the game by cheering for his teammates.
“I made a pact to the team, after the game that I got ejected against Mott,” said Clincy, when asked about how he was able to maintain a positive attitude following his exit from the game. “I’m one of the leaders, I’m not a returner, but those are my guys. If they’re doing good, even if we are down 30, I’m always cheering, and I made that a pact to myself. I’m not gonna sit there and dwell on myself. At the end of the day, I know I can blame it on the refs but it’s my fault at the end of the day. So there is nothing I can do but cheer for my guys because that’s what I would want them to do.”
Ancilla took advantage of Clincy’s absence by driving to the rim, and ultimately growing their lead to 31 points. Instead of giving up, GRCC used this opportunity to give some playing time to their deep bench, led by Major, who began to chip away at the Charger lead.
“Richard Major does a good job of getting our offense going,” said Bauer, when asked about the bench rallying in the second half. “His decision-making is always solid.”
Their late game run came in large part to freshman Brockton Kohler finding his shot, as he dropped in five quick points including a 3-pointer.
“That’s another kid that needs to be playing,” said Clincy. “ He works his ass off, and doesn’t get to show it.”
Kohler’s offensive burst, however, wasn’t enough to turn the tide in the Raiders’ favor as Ancilla held the ball for the final 30 seconds of the game, to secure a 96-73 win.
After the game, Major spoke to The Collegiate about the lack of focus from the team during the pregame warmups.
“We just have to be more mentally tough,” said Major. “Like we’re in the layup lines, trying to dunk, people who don’t normally dunk. If you don’t dunk in the game, don’t try practicing dunking in warmups. We’ve gotta be more mentally toughened focused into what our goal is, which is winning the game, not looking cool for people who aren’t even in the stands.”
Ancilla freshman Jakylen Thomas led all scorers in the contest with 22 points, shooting 6 for 8 from behind the 3-point line, to go along with three assists and two rebounds. The Chargers also received contributions from sophomore Cortney Shorter (18 points and five rebounds), sophomore Marco Beverly (14 points, 11 rebounds and three assists), Swanson Jr. (12 points and five assists) and sophomore Caleb Brown (11 points and six rebounds).
Anderson led the Raiders in scoring with 17 points, as well as, 15 rebounds, securing his third consecutive double-double of the season, two assists and two steals. GRCC also received contributions from Banks (13 points, two assists, two rebounds and two steals), Clincy (nine points, six rebounds and one block), sophomore Chandler Collins (four points and four rebounds), Brown (seven points, four rebounds and two blocks), Major (two points, three rebounds, two blocks and two steals), Kohler (five points and one assist), sophomore D’Avery Moore (four points, four rebounds and one steal), sophomore Aaron Tomlinson (four points and two assists) and sophomore Khyree Beyah (two points and two rebounds).
Next, the Raiders will travel to Port Huron, to battle the nationally ranked, St. Clair Community College on Tuesday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m.
“They’re a good team,” said Anderson. “We gotta go in there ready to play, no bsing around before. We gotta be more focused, so we can get back in the win column.”