By Kevin Lopez
In the second round of the Great Lakes B district tournament, in what was seen as a David vs Goliath moment, the Raiders went into Ballenger Field House in Flint, as underdogs and were able to come together and defeat the first seeded Jackson College Jets, who were 23-3 and 12-1 in conference play, 74-65 on Thursday, March 9.
They now move onto the championship game to face the third seeded Glen Oaks Vikings, who are 18-9 and 8-4 in conference play on Saturday, March 11.
In the first quarter against Jackson, it was an offensive struggle for both teams as it was clear that nerves were coming onto both teams as neither one could get going.
Instead it was all on one player to help lead the Raiders out of the rut as Marlene Bussler, a sophomore guard, showed up to play and scored 11 points in the first, including two 3-pointers.
Bussler was the only Raider to make a field goal in the first and was instrumental in helping the Raiders take the lead, 13-10.
The second quarter proved to be the most important quarter for the Raiders, as they out scored the Vikings 22-16.
This time it was Sally Merrill, a sophomore forward, to take over the game as she had 11 points in the quarter and also drained a 3-pointer that put the Raiders lead up to 9 points.
The Raiders came together as a team and shot nearly 50% from the field and moved the rock to one another that created several opportunities for them to score.
With the bench reacting to every play and encouraging each other on defense, all the momentum was going towards GRCC, as the Raiders continued to build the lead going into the half 35-26.
Moving into the third quarter, it was an even back and forth exchange as each team scored 22 points on similar efficiency. The Raiders were able to keep building on their lead thanks to their physical play around the basket.
The Raiders attempted 10 free throws in the quarter knocking down eight of them, again Merrill led the team in scoring with eight points in the quarter to keep the lead, 57-48.
Finally, in the most important fourth quarter of the season, it was again an even back and forth exchange as each team scored 17 points.
The difference was the poise and control of the Raiders that allowed them to focus and shoot 47% from the field, while the Vikings panicked and shot 27% from the field. They took several deep 3-pointers that were air balls.
Grace Lodes, a sophomore forward, scored six points in the quarter. The Raiders ran the clock out and once again celebrated the win as they topped the No. 1 seed and moved on to the championship game.
Merrill led the team in scoring with 24 points and six rebounds, while also making all three of her 3-pointers.
“Definitely was a big game for us and a huge team win,” Merrill said. “Really proud of everyone for getting the ball to put people in positions to score.”
GRCC David Glazier, though happy with the win, wants his team to stay focused.
“The message we’ve been talking about since going to Muskegon is that the job isn’t finished,” Glazier said. “Win the day and then prepare for tomorrow. Glen Oaks is a really good team and our kids are focused on what we’d have to do on Saturday to finish the job.”
The Raiders look to clinch the championship on March 11, as they take on Glen Oaks, who the Raiders defeated in all three games they played in. The championship game at the Ballenger Field house at 6 p.m. in Flint.