GRAND HAVEN TWP. — In a game that featured double-digit lead changes, numerous ties and an overtime session, there was not much separating the Grand Haven and East Kentwood boys basketball teams Friday night at the Grand Haven Fieldhouse.
After jumping out to a 16-4 lead, the Falcons had to hold off several momentum-swinging runs by Grand Haven throughout regulation to force a 45-45 tie. In the overtime session, East Kentwood would outscore the Bucs 11-5 thanks to some timely putbacks and lockdown defense to escape with a 56-50 road win.
The Buccaneers came out a step slow on defense, as East Kentwood jumped out to a 16-4 lead in the opening quarter. Grand Haven didn’t shake off the cold on offense until the four-minute mark and found themselves down 17-9 heading into the second quarter. However, the Bucs would battle back thanks to some outside shooting by Drew Sinke and Bryce Taylor, cutting the deficit to just 24-22 at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, Sinke would knock down a long-range bomb while getting fouled, converting the four-point play to give Grand Haven its first lead of the game at 32-29. The Bucs would hold a 34-32 lead heading into the final quarter of play, but East Kentwood would continue to answer at every turn.
After a 40-40 tie, Taylor would knock down a 3-pointer to give the Bucs a 43-40 lead, only to have the Falcons answer immediately on the other end to knot the game back up. After an East Kentwood jumper gave the Falcons a brief 45-43 lead, Owen Ross would score on a nifty post move from the paint and tie the game at 45 with less than a minute left in regulation. East Kentwood would get two looks at the basket in the final 30 seconds but the Buccaneer defense would hold and send the game to overtime.
In the overtime session, Grand Haven would have a few empty possessions and that would be all that the Falcons needed to pull away. Ryel Daye would score seven of East Kentwood’s 11 points in the extra session, as the Buccaneers went cold from distance and had to resort to fouling to extend the game. The Falcons would knock down all seven of their free throw attempts down the stretch to ice the game away.
Owen Ross scored 19 points to lead the Bucs (8-4), while Bryce Taylor added 14 and Drew Sinke added 10.
Ja'moni Jones scored 24 points to lead the Falcons (6-6), while Ryel Daye added 16.
"I was proud of our effort, and I was proud of our fight tonight," said Grand Haven head coach Greg Immink. "I thought we started pretty slow on both ends of the court. We didn't move the ball well early on and we got beat down the court a few times on defense, too.
"We corrected a few things after that first quarter and got a little more dialed in after that. Owen Ross had a great game tonight both offensively and defensively. He was constantly putting himself in a scoring position when he didn't have the ball in his hands, and defensively, he and Adam Strom did a great job of protecting the basket and grabbing rebounds against a physical East Kentwood team.
"Bryce was solid as always. He really had to play out of position, but he handled it well and played under control. Overall, I am proud of our guys for battling, but Kentwood made the one or two plays down the stretch that determined the game."
With the loss, the Buccaneers fall to 3-2 in the O-K Red Conference but remain just a game back of Rockford and Hudsonville, with games against both coming up in the next two weeks.
"In our league, there's so much parity that most of these games are going to come down to a few plays here and there, and tonight, we didn't get those to go our way," said Immink.
"We're right in the mix still. If we win our next three league games, we'll be in control of the conference really, so that has to be our focus. Tonight didn't change much. It should be an exciting finish to the conference race and it's still very much up for grabs."
Grand Haven can make a statement Tuesday, as they travel to take on Rockford (9-3, 4-1 O-K Red) at 7 p.m.
"Rockford has done a nice job so far this season," said Immink. "They have some good guard play from some underclassmen and some talented, veteran post players, too. They'll throw a zone defense at us, which will be a change from what we saw tonight. It'll be a different challenge, but we'll be ready for it."
Junior varsity: East Kentwood defeated Grand Haven, 56-43. Nic Stump scored 11 points to lead the Bucs, while Breven Portenga and Evan Schuster each added six points. The Bucs are now 4-7 overall and 1-4 in the O-K Red.
Freshmen: Grand Haven defeated East Kentwood in overtime. Bashir Neely scored 16 points to lead all scorers, while Sam Stevens added five points and Antwan Price led the team in steals with four. The Bucs are now 9-2 (5-0 in the O-K Red).
Josh VanDyke is the Sports Editor at the Grand Haven Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @JoshVanDykeGHT for more stories and live video and updates from local prep sports events.