After a few off-nights from behind the arc and the free-throw line, the Grand Haven boys basketball team broke out of their slump by scorching the nets on their way to a 48-43 road win Wednesday night over O-K Red Conference rival Rockford.
The Buccaneers finished 13-of-14 from the free-throw line and knocked down seven 3-pointers, including five in the first quarter, to snap their three-game losing streak.
"I thought our guys showed great mental toughness tonight," Immink said after the game. "We lost a tough one yesterday, but we didn't sit around and feel sorry for ourselves. We got off to a great start, and I think the guys gained a lot of confidence once they saw their shots go in for a change.
"We've got some really good shooters on our team, so I knew those shots were going to fall for us eventually. I'm just glad it happened tonight because this was a big conference road game for us. I think our ball movement on offense against their zone defense was good, and we moved our feet well and got in the passing lanes on the defensive end of the floor, too.
"Oftentimes, your offensive game will feed into your defensive effort. I think that hot start for us on offense really fueled our defensive effort for the rest of the game."
The win marks the seventh straight victory for the Grand Haven boys basketball program over Rockford, who has never beaten Immink during his tenure as the Bucs' head coach.
"That's more of a testament to the players we've had in our program while I've been here," he said. "We've had some pretty good teams recently, and we always put an emphasis on our league matchups. Rockford has historically been one of the programs you have to beat in order to win league championships, so to have a win streak against them is a nice accomplishment for our program."
The Buccaneers came out of the gates with inspired play early in Wednesday night's game, as the Buccaneers knocked down five 3-pointers in the opening frame to take a commanding 17-6 lead into the second quarter.
Drew Sinke got the party started from distance, while Casey Constant knocked down a long-range jumper to spark a quick 6-0 run. Bryce Taylor knocked down back-to-back triples shortly after that, while Owen Worthington capped off the shooting display with a buzzer-beater from the corner to end the quarter.
Taylor added another triple in the second quarter, but Rockford chipped away at the lead thanks to the play of forwards Nate Bareno and Kaden Seelye. The Rams would outscore the Bucs 16-12 in the second quarter to bring the Grand Haven lead to 29-22 at halftime.
The Buccaneers clamped down on defense in the third quarter, ballooning their lead to 35-24 after an Adam Strom basket midway through the quarter forced a Rams' timeout. After the break, Rockford stormed back into the contest with a quick 9-2 run to come within four points of the lead.
However, Taylor added his fourth 3-pointer of the game in the closing minute of the quarter to give the Bucs some breathing room at 40-33 entering the fourth quarter. That would be the only highlight for Grand Haven for a while, as the Bucs went cold for most of the fourth quarter.
Rockford clawed back into the game in the process, cutting the Grand Haven lead to 40-39 with two minutes left in the game. Owen Ross gathered in the paint and knocked down a close-range basket with 1:49 left to play to give the Bucs their first points of the quarter and extend the lead to three points at 42-39.
From there, the Buccaneers pitched a perfect game from the free-throw line, thanks to Sinke, Constant and Strom each going 2-for-2 in the final minute of play, as Grand Haven putting the finishing touches on their rivalry game win.
Taylor finished with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, to lead the Bucs, while Sinke added 10 points, including a 5-for-6 performance from the free-throw line. Owen Ross added 10 points, while Casey Constant added seven, Strom added four and Worthington added three to round out the scoring for Grand Haven.
Grand Haven (9-6, 4-3 O-K Red) plays its third league game in four days Friday, as they travel to league-leading Hudsonville (12-2, 6-1 O-K Red) for another difficult road test.
"Hudsonville is playing really good basketball right now, and it's going to take another big night from our guys in order to win at their place," Immink said. "It's never easy to win on the road in our league, but our guys are fired up right now, and I'm hoping the confidence we gained tonight will carry over to Friday."