The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team hosted Delta College on Tuesday, March. 7 for the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Regional tournament. In a low scoring game, the Raiders were defeated 78-68.
Heading into Tuesday’s playoff game, GRCC split the season series with Delta College, as each game had a close ending, with the Pioneers taking the first game in OT and the Raiders recently winning last week.
When asked if the team prepared differently for the game, head coach Joe Fox said, “There was no magic formula. We just talked about coming out and executing a plan, enjoying the moment and playing our hardest.”
The Raiders started the game slowly offensively, as turnovers and missed shots put GRCC down early, 13-6. Sophomore guard Chris Coleman sparked the Raider offense early in the first half scoring multiple jumpshots. GRCC continued to chip away at the Pioneer lead, as sophomore forward Myron Brewer nailed a 3-pointer while the defense got a few stops. This run cut the Pioneer lead to 23-22. As soon as the Raiders cut the lead to one possession, the Pioneers went on a detrimental run which increased their lead to 37-26 with two minutes remaining. The Raiders answered the run, as they were led by sophomore’s Brockton Kohler and Danyel Bibbs to cut the lead seven points.
In the first half, GRCC shot 12-32 (37.5%) from the field and 4-13 (30.8%) from three. The shooting woes along with the late Pioneer run forced the Raiders to play with more urgency in the second half.
“Delta is a tough team,” Fox said. “This is the third time we’ve played them this season and their size does affect how they play both offensively and defensively.”
Unlike the first half, the Raiders started the half on a 5-0 run led by Bibbs which cut the deficit to two points. Right after the Raiders run, the Pioneers went on an 11-0 run in the span of two minutes, and overall, a 19-6 run. In an unfamiliar spot, GRCC relied on its bench in order to make a comeback. Freshman guard Bashir Neely and Brewer gave an offensive spark for the Raiders as they made multiple shots to cut the lead to seven points with 10 minutes remaining. The Pioneers increased their lead to 11 within four minutes and were able to maintain the lead until the end of the game. GRCC was not able to put a second half comeback together which led to a Pioneer victory, 78-68.
The Raiders shot the ball much better in the second half, shooting 17-35 (48.6%) from the field. However, they were not able to string together shots when it meant the most. Turnovers were also a huge issue for the Raiders as they committed 16 turnovers.
“Basketball is a tough game, and we played in a great state for juco basketball,” Fox said. “I’m really pleased with the season, even though I’m disappointed it is ending earlier than we hoped.”
Bibbs led the way for the Raiders as he scored 19 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Neely and Brewer knocked down a few shots, as Neely scored 17 points and three rebounds while shooting a team high 8-12 (66.7%) from the field. Brewer nailed three 3-pointers on his way to 15 points and seven rebounds. Sophomore forward Isaac Warning was a strong presence in the paint as he had nine rebounds.
With the loss, the Raiders finished the season at 21-8 on the season and 9-5 in conference play. Although the loss was disappointing for the team, the Raiders made some memorable moments while bringing back a winning culture for the program.
“I can’t say enough about this team and the sophomores” Fox said. “There are a lot of lucky coaches that will get to coach these guys the next two years. I’m really looking forward to following their continued success.”
The 2022-23 season was the first time GRCC has had a winning record since the 2019-2020 season, but the last time the Raiders won more than 21 games was the 2018-19 season, in which they went 24-8. In his second year, Fox has turned the program back into a playoff caliber team and is looking to build on this season.
“The GRCC community should be very proud of this team and this season set the foundation for years to come,” Fox said.