By Jackson Heiden
The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team’s late surge in an attempt to take down the No. 1 team in the conference failed as they dropped a tight one, 88-81, to Muskegon Community College.
The Raiders’ got off to their worst start of the season as they would quickly find themselves down 14-0 not even five minutes into the game. This set the tone for the rest of the half as the Raiders struggled to get anything going offensively.
“We settled early and they’re a team that plays really aggressively early,” said GRCC’s head coach Joe Fox. “When you settle, it kind of feeds into their offense and they’re great at attacking misses and I thought we settled for long shots and it just fed out in transition buckets.”
The Jayhawks stayed out in front of the Raiders’ by 15 to 18 points for most of the first half until redshirt-sophomore Andrew Moore and sophomore guard Ryel Daye knocked down a few shots to allow the Raiders’ to go on a mini 11-2 run to put themselves down 34-24 with two minutes to play in the first half. That was it for the Raiders’ scoring for the rest of the half as the Jayhawks quickly erased their run by scoring six in the final two minutes to put themselves up 40-24 going into halftime.
“The difficult thing is being coached when times are tough,” Fox said. “Because that’s when they talk about real pressure diversity shows character. So that’s what we discussed. Our backs are against the wall and it’s time to throw some punches, show a little fight.”
Coming out of the locker room for the start of the second half, the Raiders’ looked better offensively than they did in the first half, keeping pace with the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks maintained their 20-point lead throughout the first 10 minutes of the half.
Before the Raiders could even blink, the Jayhawks hit a couple of quick threes and they eventually found themselves down by 27 with nine minutes to go. With a situation that looked to be out of control, the Raiders were not done yet.
The following nine minutes was the best possible basketball you can ask for as the Raiders went on a massive 35-15 run led by freshman guard Rico Wade. During this stretch the Raiders’ only allowed two field goals. However, the fouls got to the Raiders’ as the Jayhawks sank 11 free throws in the final nine minutes which sealed the game for them.
“We were really aggressive, really assertive, getting to the basket and driving gaps,” Fox said. “We can’t play a good 15 minutes, you got to put a good 40 minutes together. That’s the number one team in the league, it shows the ability that we have.”
The Raiders’ massive 57-point second half was led by huge turnarounds by Daye and Wade as well as the continued success of Moore. Daye finished the game with yet another double-double, as he scored 22 points while grabbing 19 rebounds and seven assists. Moore led the team with 26 points along with grabbing five rebounds. Wade came off the bench and scored 20 with 11 of those points falling during the run to end the game.
The Raiders are holding on for dear life in the push for postseason play as they now have to win out and hope that the two teams above them lose out. They begin with their final push as they come back home to take on Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Saturday, Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. at the Gordon Hunsberger Arena.
“The guys are ready to go,” Fox said. “That was a tough game for us, and (Kalamazoo) went kind of like this one. They got out to an early lead and we fought back and ran out of time, so we’re going to be more prepared for them.”