By Dave Hart
Local Sports Journal
GRAND HAVEN – They say a tie is like kissing your sister.
The Grand Haven soccer team can confirm that feeling, following a 1-1 draw with East Kentwood Wednesday that cost the Bucs a chance for at least a share of the O-K Red Conference title.
There was much at stake for the Buccaneers in the conference showdown game. They came into the contest a half game behind East Kentwood in the league standings.
If they had won, they could have claimed at least a share of the title. And if East Kentwood had lost an upcoming makeup game to Hudsonville, the outright championship would have gone to Grand Haven.
But the game ended in an overtime tie, costing the Bucs any chance at a trophy.
“It was a great night, but unfortunately the outcome was not what we wanted,” said Grand Haven coach Aaron Dean, whose team finished the regular season 8-1-1 in the league and 13-2-3 overall. “These are the games you dream about playing in front of your home fans for a conference trophy.”
East Kentwood is 9-0 in the conference and 14-3 overall.
Both teams felt each other out in the first half, playing to a scoreless tie. The Bucs outshot East Kentwood 5-4 in the first 40 minutes.
Grand Haven drew first blood five minutes into the second half, when Derek Braak found the net on a free kick from about 30 yards out.
The Falcons countered eight minutes later as Hunter Barone tucked the ball under the crossbar on the top right side of the goal, tying the game 1-1. Barone’s goal came on a free kick from just outside the goal box.
The Bucs had most of the momentum in the second half, outshooting East Kentwood 5-1. Several of those shots came very close, but none found the net.
Two Grand Haven shots by Christian Dault hit the goalpost late in regulation. The second came with a minute left on the clock.
The Bucs’ Isaac Braak also had a near miss a couple yards in front of the net that trickled wide with 13 minutes left.
East Kentwood had a 3-1 shooting edge in the two overtime periods, but neither team mounted a serious threat.
“I am really proud on how we played but very disappointed with the outcome,” said Isaac Braak. “With the long game we started to cramp up but we tried our best.”
“We played a great team in a hostile environment,” said East Kentwood coach John Conlon. “We had to weather a storm in front of our net all through the second half.”
The state tournament will now be the main focus for the Bucs, who begin district play Tuesday against Jenison.