By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College women’s basketball team welcomed the nationally ranked Monarchs of Macomb Community College to the Gordon Hunsberger Arena, on Saturday, March 20, losing 58-56.
In the most recent National Junior College Athletic Association rankings the Monarchs were ranked sixth, and carried on a 39-game win streak, that started in 2019 into Saturday’s game.
“It felt good to play a good team and show that we can compete at a top level,” said Shonyah Hawkins, a sophomore guard for the GRCC women’s basketball team. “They haven’t ranked us and we felt like we deserved to be ranked. So we tried to go out and give it our best shot.”
From the opening tip, the teams were locked into a defensive slugfest, as the teams traded baskets throughout the first quarter. The Monarchs were able to score the first basket of the game, but GRCC sophomore forward Jayla Bibbs quickly responded to put the home team on the board.
Sophomores Eurasia Green-Boyd, Shonyah Hawkins and Olivia Koetje helped propel the Raiders’ in front of Macomb, 18-17, as the second quarter began. GRCC maintained their lead as the pace of the game slowed, as sophomore Danielle Lamancusa and freshman Trayana Starr-Thurman stepped up on both ends of the court. With 6:11 left until halftime, Bibbs corralled her 10th rebound in the contest. As the buzzer sounded and the teams headed off to the locker room, GRCC was ahead of Macomb by one point, 29-28.
After the game David Glazier, head coach for the GRCC women’s team, noted that the team refocused on the small things during the break.
“Honestly, at halftime it was more one of the players who doesn’t play a lot that stepped up and we ended halftime at that point,” Glazier said. “It was like ‘Hey, she said what we need to hear and it came from a kid who is buying into some leadership from (Bibbs and Hawkins).”
As the third quarter began, the energy in the Ford Fieldhouse had multiplied as the fans came to life in support of both teams, as the Monarchs tied the game, 33-33. The Raiders went on a run, as Hawkins and Green-Boyd took over offensively for the team to give them a seven point advantage, 44-37. However by the end of the quarter, the Monarch found their way back into the contest, to tie it up 46-46.
Both teams continued their intensity on defense in the fourth quarter making points hard to come-by. With neither team gaining an edge in the final minutes of the game, Monarch sophomore Jessica Adams fouled out with the Raiders down two-points, 55-53. GRCC took advantage of Adams’ absence and attacked the basket, however, with seconds left and the Raiders down, 58-56, sophomore Olivia Koetje got a clear look at a 3-pointer to give the Raiders the lead that rattled off the rim, as the final buzzer sounded.
Though the loss ended the Raider win streak at seven games, GRCC managed to hold Macomb sophomore Emily Swiercz, ranked fourth in the NJCAA for points per game, to three points. After the game Glazier mentioned how important Bibbs and Hawkins are as leaders for the team, while making note of the depth of the team’s bench.
“Erin Kruithoff came in and did a really nice job defensively, just stayed in front of a person and did the things we ask her to do,” Glazier said. “Abigale Rouwhorst and Kyleigh Rau, those two came in and played really good minutes. When your subs can come in and you don’t lose (a step), that’s a good thing.”
Macomb sophomore Olivia Russell led all scorers in the contest with 26 points, as well as 21 rebounds and three blocks. The Monarchs received contributions from Adams (two points and 10 rebounds), freshman Rayonna Armstrong (13 points and eight rebounds), Swiercz (three points and two assists) and freshman Amy Jackson (eight points).
The Raiders were led in scoring by Hawkins with 20 points, as well as grabbing three rebounds and three steals. GRCC also received contributions from Bibbs (eight points, 20 rebounds, three assists and three steals), Green-Boyd (nine points, eight rebounds and two assists), Lamancusa (four points, six rebounds and three blocks), Koetje (three points, five rebounds and two assists), Starr-Thurman (seven points and three rebounds), Rau (three points) and Rouwhorst (two points and two rebounds).
Next the (7-2) Raiders will face-off against Alpena Community College in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, March 23, at 5:30 p.m. With limitations on fans in the Hunsberger Arena, you can catch the stream on the GRCC Athletics YouTube channel.
While Alpena isn’t having the best season (1-8), Glazier and the Raiders aren’t overlooking them ahead of the matchup.
“It’s a group that I don’t think (is) having the year that they had hoped for, you know, but they beat Delta,” Glazier said. “They can beat anybody on any given night, so we have to be ready for that.”