Heading into Wednesday, Feb. 1, the Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team was rallying off a three game winning streak. That streak came to an end as the Pioneers outlasted the Raiders in overtime 98-88.
Head coach Joe Fox made sure his team was aware of Delta College’s length.
“They are a very talented team,” Fox said. “They have good size and crash the boards very hard so it is going to be a challenge facing them in the paint.”
Although the Pioneers were a tough matchup, the Raiders focused on getting out to a fast start and they executed on both sides for the first five minutes of the game. The Raiders started on an 8-2 run but the Pioneers quickly made a run of their own. Sophomores Danyel Bibbs and Brockton Kohler led the way for the Raiders early, as they sparked most of the offense for the first 10 minutes.
The rest of the first half stayed consistent as GRCC held a slight lead for the most of it. At the six minute mark, the refs called a blocking foul on a Pioneer player before the Delta College head coach yelled at refs and received a technical foul, in which freshman Bashir Neely made one of the two free throws. Neely and fellow freshman Seth Schuitema knocked down some shots in the first half to aid the GRCC lead. With two minutes remaining in the first half, the Pioneers jumped the Raiders and took a slight lead into half. Both teams shot over 40% in the half and the halftime score was 48-47.
Coach Fox believed the impressive first half was due to great teamwork and execution on the offensive end.
“I thought we moved the ball well and made open shots in the first half,” Fox said. “We made shots we needed in the first half because of the way everyone shared the ball.”
In the first few minutes of the second half, each team struggled to make a shot with a combined four points in the first three minutes. As the half unwinded, both teams started to execute more efficiently and it created a nail-biting finish. Sophomore Herman Brown boosted the Raiders with five straight points and a small lead. Each team went back and forth taking a slight lead in the last five minutes, but no team took full control of the game. Sophomore forward Isaac Warning nailed a three-point shot to give the Raiders a 80-79 lead with three minutes remaining. Right after that, the Pioneers scored three straight points and barely held a two point lead.
Free throws proved to be a pivotal way to win the game. With 1:13 remaining in regulation, Bibbs knocks two free throws to tie the game at 82. Delta College turned the ball over on their next possession and it gave an opportunity for the Raiders to win the game. Another Pioneer foul gave Bibbs a chance to take the lead, but missed the first free throw of a one-and-one which brought the game to OT.
Overtime was a much different story than all of regulation. The five minute period started off as a close battle between the teams to try to take a sizable lead. In the last three minutes, the Pioneers went on a 10-0 run to take a double digit lead and the game. The Raiders were defeated in OT 88-98.
Although the Raiders were not able to pull out the win, they had a few impressive performances. Bibbs led the team in scoring and rebounding with 20 points and six rebounds while fouling out. Kohler also made a strong impact on both sides of the court scoring 14 points and leading the team in steals with five. Freshman Jajuan Walker and Bashir Neely gave a spark off the bench as Walker had 10 points and five rebounds, while Neely scored 14 points.
Free throws were a huge reason why the Raiders did not pull away from the Pioneers as GRCC shot 16-27 from the line which is nearly 60%. Bibbs says the team learns from experiences like this and tries to improve from it.
“Tonight was a tough loss but there are many things we can work on and fix as a team,” Bibbs said. “We win as a team, lose as a team, and improve as a team.”
With the loss, the Raiders move to 14-5 on the season and have a 3-3 conference record. The Raiders return home to the Ford Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb.4 at 3 p.m. to take on North Central Michigan College.
Coach Fox is aware all conference games are tough and that is especially true for NCMC as they have the same conference record as the Raiders.
“Talented team coming to town in North Central but we will be ready to play and be aggressive from the opening tip.”