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Raiders continue streak, winning back-to-back road games

Sophomore guard Joe Francis brings the ball up against Olivet JV. (Lindsey Soet/ The Collegiate)

The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team traveled to Illinois this past weekend and won both of their games, defeating Oakton College and Harper College. 

In the Raider’s first game against Oakton College, they got off to a slower start than expected, struggling to score for the first five minutes. Sophomore guard Joe Francis continued where he left off last game as he scored five out of the first seven points. 

Head coach Joe Fox has been extremely impressed with Francis along with his other sophomores. 

“Joe has been terrific for us this season,” Fox said. “He and the other sophomores have done a great job raising the bar for us.”

The Raiders were unable to expand their lead which meant a back-and-forth battle throughout the first half. Sophomore guard Tristan McRoberts controlled the pace for the Raiders as he scored multiple buckets in the first half. 

Toward the end of the half, the Raiders trailed by two but multiple 3-pointers from freshman guard Brady Tebo and Francis catapulted the Raiders into the lead. GRCC finished the half on a short 5-0 run which kept their lead to 42-36. 

However, the second half was a completely different story for the Raiders. With the boost from sophomore guard Spencer Willman, GRCC went on a 10-0 run in the first five minutes of the half. Only minutes later, GRCC went on another 10-0 run due to their impressive defense which put their lead up to 24 points. 

Freshman forward J.D. DeGroot scored multiple points in a row off free throws and put-back layups to maintain the Raider lead. Freshman guard Mason Wilcox heated up toward the end of the game as he scored 21 straight points for GRCC to put away the Owls. GRCC defeated Oakton College 102-74. 

Fox was extremely impressed with how Wilcox finished the game;

“Mason is a gamer,” Fox said. “He found his zone and played within himself.”

Wilcox led the team with 27 points, shooting 10/12 (83%) from the field and 7/8 (88%) from behind the arc. Tristan McRoberts and Francis continued to show their ability to score as McRoberts had 12 points and two blocks while Francis had 18 points. 

In the second game against Harper College, GRCC made a starting lineup change as sophomore guard Darrell Belcher got the start over Willman. The Raiders defense showed up as they only allowed five points in the first five minutes. Tristan McRoberts scored nine points in the first eight minutes to give the Raiders an early lead. GRCC went on a 9-0 run which forced a timeout from the Hawks. 

Once again, DeGroot made an impact for the Raiders on the boards and finishing layups as he had multiple rebounds and finishes in the first half. GRCC’s defense looked impressive as they held the Hawks to only 16 points with two minutes remaining in the half. After a bucket from Belcher, the Raiders headed into halftime with a 37-25 lead. 

Francis started the second half strong as he had a made shot followed by a 3-pointer. Belcher continued to shine in his new role as he had multiple early buckets for the Raiders. The defense of GRCC was locking up the Hawks offense as they went over four minutes without any points. 

GRCC’s 11-2 run gave them a comfortable lead midway through the second half. Although the Raiders struggled to score at times in the second half, their boa constrictor-like defense allowed them to maintain their double-digit lead. Both Willman and Belcher helped put away the Hawks by a score of 74-56. 

Belcher led all scorers with 16 points along with seven rebounds. McRoberts had an impressive all-around game with 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Lastly, DeGroot shot a team-high 100% from the field scoring 11 points, eight rebounds, and three blocks. 

The Raiders improve to 3-0 on the season and continue their road non-conference schedule. GRCC faces Lake Michigan College on Wednesday, Nov. 8, in Benton Harbor.

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