By Shane Madden
The Grand Rapids Community College women’s basketball team defeated Kalamazoo Valley Community College, 68-60.
Freshman guard Sally Merrill had a monster double-double, scoring 20 and pulling down 15 rebounds, while freshman forward Grace Lodes anchored the Raider defense with seven blocks and three steals. Freshman guard Marlene Bussler added 15 points and seven rebounds.
The Raiders drew a tough defensive matchup in shifty guard Abigail Long, who put up big numbers with 29 points and 12 rebounds. The second leading scorer in the entire National Junior College Athletic Association lived up to her reputation.
Basketball is an offensive game. Throughout its history rules have been changed to allow more freedom of movement and less defensive physicality. So, it can be near impossible to stop a great offensive talent. KVCC did a great job of running sets to get their star open. They made habit of running pick and roll out of “horns” action (one pick set on either side of the ball handler), giving her the option of going left or right. If the defender goes under the screen, a good shooter pulls up; defender goes over, a good finisher stays downhill and attacks the basket. Long was both, but the Raider defense kept her contained and forced to her to make tough shots.
“The credit really goes to Emersyn Koepke and Alysia Wesley,” said GRCC head coach David Glazier. “Those are the two that we tasked with doing their best to make everything that kid got difficult. I think you see the stat line of 29 points and you wonder, but in reality they made her work for everything… A kid’s averaging 25, you go in with an understanding they’re probably going to get their points, but if you can make it difficult and keep that 25 from becoming 40, then we’re doing a good job.”
After an evenly matched first half ended with a score tied at 30, the Raiders came out for the third more determined and with more energy. During their late season string of success, GRCC has habitually come out of halftime and jumped on their opponent. Saturday was no different, as they outscored the Cougars 22-13 in the third.
“The last few games (at halftime) we’ve really just had a conversation as a group,” Glazier said. “I’m pretty tough on our kids, and those expectations are based on my belief in where they can get to, where they can be. But the players sometimes have a better feel for things (expectations) than even I do. And to their credit, they come out, they respond and put together a big run.”
This group accountability of holding each other to team expectations, really embodies the hill this team has climbed, from starting as early season underdogs to battling for conference seeding late in the schedule.
KVCC made a push for a fourth quarter comeback, pulling all the way back to within four points to make it interesting, but ran out of time. Another Raider victory.
The win brings them to 16-9 on the season, 12-3 in conference play, good for fourth place with three games to go. With the top of the conference so tightly contested, but having already clinched a postseason berth, they could finish anywhere, first through fifth.
The Raiders face the toughest opponent left on their schedule, Monday, Feb. 21, when they take on Lake Michigan Community College. Tipoff is at 5:30 p.m. at Gordon Hunsberger arena.