By Jackson Heiden
Despite the spectacular defense, late in the game, from redshirt-freshman Justus Clark, the Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team failed to overcome a 20-point deficit as Jackson College escaped 79-74.
The Raiders showed a lot of energy to start the game as freshman forward Myron Brewer showed a lot of leadership and poise to do something as the Raiders would keep pace with the Jets. Brewer hit a three to bring the Raiders within one making it 13-12, forcing the Jets to call a timeout.
“He’s been playing well in practice, I thought he earned an opportunity to go out there,” said GRCC’s head coach Joe Fox. “He worked hard, played hard, he was good.”
Following the timeout, both teams would continue to exchange buckets as the Raiders executed by running sets but failed to convert the successful sets into buckets, as they would find themselves down 22-17.
There was a glimmer of hope that a Raider comeback was imminent as their defense picked up and provided good stops as they pulled within two making it a 28-26 game.
After the Raiders’ looked as though they were about to come back, the Jets called a timeout. The wheels fell off for the Raiders as they struggled to grab the defensive rebound allowing the Jets to get more second-chance points off. This resulted in a shift of momentum as the Jets would take a 42-31 lead walking into the locker room.
“We got to move the ball,” Fox said. “We had way too many no pass or one pass possessions and you’re not gonna beat anybody that way.”
The Jets’ late first-half momentum shift carried over into the second as the Raiders’ looked lost, scoring only three baskets in the first five minutes compared to the Jets eight. After the first five minutes, the Raiders’ found themselves in a deep hole, down 58-40.
Following a Raider timeout, Fox subbed in redshirt-freshman guard Danyel Bibbs who came out of the break with a lot of energy, being aggressive on defense forcing turnovers, and scoring five. Bibbs’ energy sparked the home crowd to get into the game as this would eventually spread to the home bench.
At the halfway mark of the second half, there was a huge shift in momentum. The crowd was consistently loud and so was the Raider bench. Fox had the Raiders’ in a full-court press for the rest of the game allowing Clark to go to work on the defensive end and for his teammates to heat up offensively. The Raiders would go on a massive 14-4 run to pull themselves within 10 with five minutes to play.
“I just tried to come in and make as big of an impact as I can,” Clark said. “I tried to bring energy in a situation like that when we’re down 20. I just tried to lead by example and get my teammates on the same page.”
This momentum carried into the final five minutes, resulting in the Raiders going on a 7-0 run to end the game. Ultimately the Raiders’ couldn’t complete the comeback despite the Jets endgame offensive struggles.
“I thought Bibbs and Clark’s production there was really great,” Fox said. “Justus has done a great job in practice so it’s about getting him in rather than who we were getting out. He did a great job responding with some really aggressive play.”
Although the stat line doesn’t reflect it, Clark’s defense gave the spark that the Raiders needed to avoid another blowout loss, as he finished with four rebounds, three points, and three assists. Bibbs provided a lot coming off the bench as he scored 19, grabbed seven rebounds, and had four assists. Brewer finished the night with five points and five rebounds. Sophomore guard Ryel Daye achieved yet another double-double as he scored 12 along with 11 rebounds and five assists. Redshirt-sophomore guard Andrew Moore led the team with 19 along with three rebounds and three assists.
The Raiders will hit the road and take on their cross-state rival Lansing Community College, Saturday Feb. 12, at 3 p.m. They look to even the season series and carry the late-game momentum into the next game.
“It’s always fun to play down in Lansing,” Fox said. “They’re a really good team, they got us in overtime here so I’m looking forward to the battle.”