By John Jarvi
Local Sports Journal
GRAND HAVEN – Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central played like a defending league champion and rolled to a 72-48 nonleague boys basketball victory over the Grand Haven Buccaneers on Tuesday night.
With a University of Michigan men’s basketball assistant in the house, Central and its 6-7 sophomore star – Xavier Tillman – pounded their way to a fast start and pull away victory in the closing moments.
Tillman had 18 points to lead Central, now 2-0 for the season, The defending O-K Conference White Division champions finished 18-4 last season with everyone returning on the roster this season.
“I think we played really hard and really together,” said Central coach Ken George. “That’s all I can ask.”
The Rangers beat the Buccaneers 44-34 last season with Tillman playing as a freshman.
This time around, the Rangers jumped out to a 12-2 lead and did not look back. Ten Grand Haven turnovers in the opening quarter helped Central build a 12-5 lead by the end of the quarter. By halftime, the Rangers had built up a 34-19 edge.
The Buccaneers twice had the lead down to nine points in the third quarter, but the Rangers scored 11 of the last 13 points in the period to lead 56-38 after three quarters.
Central limited Grand Haven, now 1-1, to 24 field goal tries and 13 attempts from behind the 3-point line.
“We got manhandled at every spot on the court,” said Bob Eidson, the Grand Haven coach. “It was the way the game was called. We had to match their physical play and we didn’t.
“That (Central) is a very experienced team. They play a lot of seniors.”
The Rangers wound up with 15 steals and led in rebounds, 26-23 while forcing the Buccaneers into 21 turnovers for the game.
“I really thought we’d give them a much better game than we did,” Eidson said. “For us to be successful, we’ve got to step it up. We’ll bounce back.”
Schaeffer Thelen provided Grand Haven’s spark on offense. He ended with a game-high 22 points by making four baskets, three three-pointers and sinking 5-of-6 free throws. James Godwin had six points for Grand Haven, which plays at neighboring Spring Lake in another non-league game Friday.
Ross Koella and Zac Holman each had five rebounds for the Buccaneers while Tyler Wiedeman added three assists.