In the final regular-season game of the year, the Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team defeated Delta College in close fashion 81-78 on Thursday, March 2. Led by sophomores Isaac Warning, Brockton Kohler, and Danyel Bibbs, the Raiders were able to fend off the Pioneers.
Head coach Joe Fox credits the Pioneers’ talent and coaching staff for making it a tough game to prepare for.
“Coach Turner does a great job at Delta, and they are one of the biggest teams in the conference,” Fox said. “They always play hard and compete at a high level.”
In the first few minutes, both teams slowly got into the game, both struggling to get a sizable lead. Bibbs started to give a boost for the Raiders five minutes into the game, which led to a run for the Raiders. They increased their lead 23-16 with 7:30 remaining led by a few made shots from Kohler. Right after, the Pioneers formulated a run of their own as they cut the GRCC lead to three. In the final few minutes of the half, the Raiders completely outplayed Delta College, outsourcing them 8-0 while taking a 46-33 halftime lead.
A 3-point barrage in the first half allowed the Raiders to get a double-digit lead heading into halftime. GRCC shot 7-21 (33%) from three while shooting 17-39 (43.6%) from the field.
Fox was elated with the effort of his team on both sides of the court in the first half.
“I thought we moved the ball well in the first half, and executed our defensive game plan,” Fox said. “Warning and Seth Schuitema did a great job there.”
Starting the second half, the Pioneers came out scorching from the field, as they went on a 18-3 run while gaining the lead as well. Kohler stepped up when adversity hit, providing an offensive spark by hitting a few shots that kept the Raiders in the game. Throughout the second half, no team took control of the game as each team’s lead was within five points. GRCC trailed 66-61 with seven minutes remaining, but after a small run, the Raiders took control of the game. Led by freshman Bashir Neely, Warning, and Kohler, the Raiders were able to maintain their lead. After Kohler knocked down a pair of go-ahead free throws with 11 seconds remaining, GRCC got a stop on the last possession to win the game 81-78.
“All year long, our mentality has been one play at a time and one game at a time, and it finally feels like it’s paying off,” sophomore guard Rico Wade said. “The amount of energy the team plays with is unmatched and we feel we are closer than ever right now.”
Although the Raiders shot 3-15 (20%) from three in the second half, they were able to defeat the Pioneers by making free throws down the stretch while also getting stops when the team needed them.
“We had sophomores that made big plays down the stretch,” Fox said. “Bibbs and Kohler did a great job scoring. Neely and Carter Thomas gave us great minutes off the bench as well.”
The Raiders also dominated near the basket getting 40 points in the paint along with 10 fast break points.
Kohler led the Raiders in scoring with 21 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Warning and Bibbs also contributed heavily, as Warning had a near double-double with 18 points and nine rebounds while Bibbs scored 17 points, six rebounds, and a team-high nine assists. Freshmen Seth Schuitema and Bashir Neely gave a spark off the bench, as Schuitema recorded 13 points, three rebounds, three blocks, and three steals while Neely scored nine points, four rebounds, four assists, and three steals.
GRCC wrapped up the regular season with a 21-7 record and a 9-5 conference record. The Raiders finished third in the conference only behind Bay College and Mid Michigan. In their first chance to get a postseason win, the Raiders once again host Delta College at home on Tuesday, March 7, at 7 p.m.
Fox said the season has led to this moment and the team will be ready to go for Tuesday’s game.
“This is the time you prepare for all season,” Fox said. “The guys will be ready, but there are no easy games from here on out so we’ll have to lay it all on the line.”