By Shane Madden
The Grand Rapids Community College women’s basketball team lost a tough conference matchup to Ancilla College, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 53-38.
Freshman guard Sally Merrill left it all on the court, playing all 40-minutes, attempting to energize the Raiders in the absence of their defensive centerpiece, freshman forward Grace Lodes. Despite the extra attention on defense, she managed to score 18 points while gathering eight rebounds, one steal and one block.
Nothing boosts the confidence of a perimeter defender quite like a shot-swatting-center lined up behind them, it’s almost like playing two-on-one. The Raiders missed theirs dearly. Lodes isn’t just leading the conference in blocks, despite missing multiple games, she’s lapping the field. Twenty-two blocks ahead of the next best defender and tripling the totals of others in the top 10.
In her absence, Ancilla poured in 32 points in the paint and Charger forward Alayah Chapman went to town for 30 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, two blocks.
After an effective first quarter where they scored 14 points (but gave up 22), the Raider offense simply could not find its feet. Shooters’ shoot, so Merrill did, hoisting 27 shots and trying her best to get the offense moving.
With the offense stagnant and the defense struggling, GRCC couldn’t find a way.
The loss brings the Raiders to 17-10 on the year, 13-4 in conference play, all but clinching third place (and the three seed of the district postseason tournament). The Raiders have made a habit of using the first half to feel out their opponents, then attacking any weaknesses in the second half, and the same could be said about the whole year.
The Raiders started the season the way aspirational teams should, by playing the toughest competition they can find. Sizing up their toughest opponents and finding the cracks in their own game. They played three of the top four teams from last year’s postseason in week one, getting off to a rough 1-5 start. But this team learns quickly. They turned it around and have gone 16-5, including an impressive eight-game win streak, in the latter part of the season.
One game remains in the regular season, as the Raiders head to Glen Oaks to face off against the Vikings, Friday, Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m.