By Sean Chase
The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team traveled to Muskegon to face the Jayhawks of Muskegon Community College on Thursday, April 1, losing 75-73. The Raiders closed the regular-season with a 5-8 record.
“Well, I’m disappointed,” said Jeff Bauer, head coach for the GRCC men’s basketball team. “I mean, these last three weeks, we just haven’t played a whole game and tonight was just another example of that. Hats off to Muskegon, they played hard, they made some shots. I think they made 13 or 14 3-pointers which is about double what they average. So they were very hot, and we were not.”
From the opening tip, the Jayhawks were rolling from behind the 3-point line. GRCC scored the first basket of the game off of a steal by sophomore Darien Banks, which he took the length of the court for an easy layup. Banks followed this up by hitting a mid-range jump shot to give the Raiders a slight advantage to start the first half.
However, MCC’s Jeff Sultzer buried back-to-back 3-point shots to ignite a run by the Jayhawks. This run propelled them into the lead, as they went up by 11 points, 26-15, off of another Sultzer 3-pointer. As the minutes ticked off the clock, GRCC mounted a comeback of their own, with the help of sophomore Isaac Anderson and freshman Azyah Brown. When the buzzer sounded signifying halftime, GRCC was in control of the momentum after cutting the Jayhawk lead down to five points, 37-32.
“We didn’t get off to a great start,” Bauer said. “We had a couple mistakes and offensively we kind of found our rhythm a bit. We were getting good looks and just couldn’t, just weren’t strong enough to get it in the basket. Then we kind of solved that problem, it felt like, late in the first half, and then it continued over into the second half.”
The Raiders continued their pursuit of the Jayhawk lead after the teams returned to the court for the second half, forcing the ball into the paint and overwhelming the MCC defenders, who began racking up fouls.
With less than 10 minutes remaining in the contest, the Raiders made their move, as Anderson grabbed a rebound, sped past the MCC defenders, and drove to the rack for what looked like another easy layup to tie the game. However, he was fouled causing the attempt to rattle out, sending him to the line for two free-throws. After hitting both shots, the game was tied up, 59-59.
“They went really small, and we did a good job feeding the post,” Bauer said. “(Collins) had a good game because of that.”
The back-and-forth nature of the rivalry matchup continued throughout the second half, as neither team could secure a decent lead. Sophomore Chandler Collins found his rhythm in the paint, allowing GRCC to take a two-point lead, 73-71, with a minute remaining in the contest.
MCC quickly responded, to tie things up and it looked like overtime was inevitable. Then Sultzer, looking to give the Jayhawks the lead, pulled up from 3-point range and was fouled to send him to the free-throw line for three shots. He missed the first but buried the next two as MCC took the lead back, 75-73. With 2.2 seconds remaining, the Raiders attempted a 3-point shot to win the game, but as the buzzer sounded, the ball rattled off of the rim, as MCC held on to sweep the season series, 2-0.
“Honestly, I don’t know why but it’s like we don’t realize we’re playing a real game until a random point in the game, where we’re like ‘now it’s time to be serious’ and by then we’re already in a hole we gotta dig ourselves out and that’s a problem too,” Major said.
Anderson racked up another double-double on the night, while leading all scorers in the contest with 24 points, to go along with 13 rebounds and four assists. The Raiders also received contributions from Collins (18 points, eight rebounds and one assist), Banks (12 points, four rebounds and two steals), Brown (eight points, nine rebounds and one block), freshman Dasani Darnell (seven points and three rebounds), sophomore Aaron Tomlinson (two points and one rebound) and sophomore D’Avery Moore (two points, four rebounds and two blocks).
“I think we took a step in the right direction (Thursday night),” Anderson said. “I feel like we’re starting to come together, we’re starting to be one team.”
The Jayhawks were led in scoring by Sultzer with 24 points, as well as three assists and two rebounds. MCC also received contributions from Jackob Martinson (18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks), Ty Oldham (12 points and two assists) and Prince Rush (six points and six rebounds).
With the regular season complete, the Raiders will turn their attention to the Region XII Great Lakes A tournament, where they will face Oakland Community College on Tuesday, April 6.
“0-0, you know, the regular season is over, it doesn’t matter anymore,” Major said. “We gotta really hone in and focus on that, it’s a whole new season and we can get everything that we want out of the tournament. As long as we focus and play as hard as we can.”