By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team mounted a valiant comeback on the road against the Lakers of Mid Michigan College on Friday, March 26, but fell just short, losing 69-66. Their record is 4-7, after losing five-consecutive games.
Just as sophomore Richard Major was able to return from serving a one-game suspension after receiving two technical fouls against Alpena on March 23, the Raiders were without freshman Brockton Kohler, who had a work commitment, going into the Mid Michigan game.
“We were kind of undermanned again, and we got a couple guys playing with injuries, key guys, so I’m proud of how we fought,” said Jeff Bauer, head coach for GRCC’s men’s basketball team. “I thought we played hard and were neck-and-neck in the first half. We just kind of battled.”
From the opening tip, the teams were locked into a back-and-forth affair, with Mid Michigan scored the first basket of the game. However, sophomore Isaac Anderson would answer right back draining a mid-range shot.
Both teams would continue to trade baskets throughout the first half, but with five-minutes remaining before the break the Lakers 3-point shooting pushed them to an 11-point lead, 36-25. Sophomore D’Avery Moore would respond for the Raiders with a 3-pointer of his own, before the Lakers snuck a basket in just as the buzzer sounded, to push the MMC lead back to 10-points, 38-28, as the teams went to the locker rooms.
Coming out of the break, the Raiders didn’t immediately respond to the Lakers run, allowing MMC to stretch their lead to 15. Until, Major buried a 3-pointer that sparked a Raider comeback.
“He’s a key for us,” Bauer said. “You know so many kids at this level, they want to win, but they really wanna get stats and have individual success to get to the four-year level, which I understand. (Major) wants to play at the four-year level as well, but he really puts the team first. I mean if he never scores a point, he’s fine. He’s probably our most cerebral guy, as far as basketball IQ, and just kind of being a solid steady presence for us. I think guys respect that.”
At first it started slow as GRCC found their rhythm against the Laker defense, and then the Raiders turned up the intensity. They were able to hold MMC scoreless for just short of nine minutes, taking the lead as sophomore Chandler Collins grabbed an offensive rebound and forced it back up for a basket, 62-59.
For the rest of the game, the lead would continue to change hands but with five-seconds remaining and the score tied, 66-66, Laker freshman Noah Pruitt was fouled in the act of shooting a 3-pointer, sending him to the line for three shots. With the Raiders hopes of snapping their losing-streak in his hands, Pruitt missed three consecutive free-throws.
As the ball rattled off the rim on the third attempt, a scramble for the rebound ensued. Through the cluster of bodies, Pruitt was able to corral the ball and heave up a 3-pointer, which fell through to give the Lakers the lead, 69-66. With no timeouts remaining and .3 seconds on the clock, the Raiders weren’t able to send it to overtime, and the game ended in favor of MMC.
Pruitt led all scorers in the contest with 17 points, to go along with two rebounds, in the Laker win. MMC also received contributions from sophomore Isaac Hungerford (14 points, one rebound and one steal), sophomore Javel Lewis Jr. (12 points, six rebounds and one steal), freshman Satchel Love (five points, 11 rebounds and two blocks) and sophomore Tim Steward (three points, six rebounds and five assists).
The Raiders were led in scoring by Anderson with 14 points to go along with 10 rebounds, six assists and five steals. GRCC also received contributions from Major (12 points, three rebounds and two assists), freshman Dasani Darnell (11 points, five rebounds and one assist), sophomore Darien Banks (11 points and one rebound), Moore (six points and two rebounds), Collins (five points and seven rebounds), freshman Azyah Brown (three points and one rebound) and freshman Justus Clark (four points, one rebound and one steal).
“I think Justus has done a great job,” Bauer said. “He’s stayed positive, which is a big challenge, but also the most important piece. He was a good high school player at a tremendous program. Tonight, I thought he did a pretty good job defensively, and as he gets more minutes, I’m hoping that he’ll get more confident on the offensive end because I think he can do some things there.”
With one week remaining in the season before the conference tournament, the Raiders will look to snap their losing streak at home against the Vikings of Glen Oaks Community College, on Tuesday, March 30, at 7:30 p.m. To catch the game, you can go to the GRCC Athletics Youtube channel.
“This week is a huge week for us,” Bauer said. “It’s not just the games we play on Tuesday and Thursday, it’s ultimately getting ready for the tournament, which is the prize for the whole season, really. I talked to our guys about it (Thursday). Things haven’t went our way the last week. Some guys are never gonna play again, some guys are gonna return next year, some guys are gonna move on to other situations, but whatever the situation is next year there is no guarantee that they get to play in a national tournament, like we have the opportunity to in a week. So I think, I hope and I want our guys to just embrace that and not take it for granted because it may not ever happen in their lives again.”