By Shane Madden
Coming into Wednesday night’s game Grand Rapids Community College had been on a tear, winning eight in a row (12 of 14) and seated near the top of the conference with only one name above their own. Jackson College, the last team to beat GRCC (on Jan. 13), sat atop that list, defending a seven-game win streak of their own. This game very likely decides the Michigan Community College Athletic Association West as we head into the final weeks of the season.
The Grand Rapids Community College women’s basketball team fell to the Jackson College Jets, 60-55, despite a valiant comeback effort in the fourth quarter.
The Raider’s freshman frontcourt went to work in the paint, as Grace Lodes scored 10 points to go along with eight rebounds and four blocks while Karissa Ferry added nine points, eight rebounds and two steals.
Freshman guard Sally Merrill saw increased defensive pressure on the floor, in the form of additional help defense and outright double-teams, and off it, as the opposing coach had done her homework, sniffing out several plays designed to spring Merrill free. She finished with 12 points, six rebounds and two blocks.
As we move to the later stages of the season, scouting and familiarity become a larger factor, and adjustments must be made.
“(The solution) is twofold,” said GRCC head coach David Glazier. “We need more people to step up and play their part. Then there’s little things you can do against defenses like that (double teams) that can still get a kid like Sally open. We tried a couple of them, but end of the day, just not our best effort.”
GRCC spent much of this game playing catch-up. The Raiders found themselves in a hole, down 10 early in the second, climbed out to tie the game, then fell right back in giving up an eight-point run – all before halftime. They walked in at the half down five, 33-28, but still in it.
To kick off the third, freshman point guard Marlene Bussler hit a tough 3-pointer off the dribble and sprinted back on defense to poke the ball away and head the other direction. GRCC found Merrill for a tough and-one bucket in the lane to tie the game at 34. Bussler tallied eight points and three steals on the night.
Late in the third the Jets started to get hot. Active hands forced turnovers and their shots fell on the offensive end. They continued to build their lead throughout the second half, going up by as many as 15 with eight minutes to go in the game.
The Jets led 58-43 but the Raiders weren’t done.
GRCC’s defense held Jackson scoreless for the remainder of the game save two free throws in the final seconds. Lodes stepped up defensively as she has done all season, knabbing three steals and a block during the Raiders final stand. The offense managed to find the bottom of the net and pull back within striking distance. With 10 seconds to go, Merrill drove the lane for the game-tying layup but couldn’t quite finish the comeback.
“They’re resilient, I’ll give them that,” Glazier said. “And I love it. I love that we battle. But we got to stop putting ourselves in the position of having to (catch up). That takes nothing away from Jackson, that’s a good team, I just think we are better than what we showed tonight.”
The Raiders look to get back in the win column and keep their postseason hopes alive when they visit Lansing Community College, Saturday, Feb. 12, at 1 p.m.