By Nate Thompson
ROCKFORD – Probably everyone in the gym expected the ball to be in the hands of Grand Haven senior guard Tyler Wiedeman with the game tied in the closing seconds at Rockford High School Friday evening.
Instead, Grand Haven head coach Greg Immink put his trust in senior point guard Drew Hewitt, who had just two points before the Bucs’ final possession.
Hewitt made his coach look awfully smart, driving the lane and banking in the game-winning layup with five seconds remaining, lifting the Bucs to a thrilling 50-48 victory against the rival Rams in O-K Red Conference action.
Immink said Rockford had a tight cover on Wiedeman, who led all scorers with 25 points, so giving Hewitt a green light to drive to the rim was the next best option.
“Drew doesn’t always score a lot, but he has the potential to do more of that,” Immink said. “But for us, he’s a playmaker. (Rockford) covered up our shooters pretty well, and Drew saw a seam, made a nice move and finished.
“That’s a senior making a big play at the end of the game.”
Rockford went for the win with their final shot, but junior Jason Majerle’s rushed 3-point attempt hit the side of the backboard at the buzzer.
The exhilarating finish helped erase an otherwise disappointing fourth quarter for Grand Haven (11-5, 5-3 O-K Red), which coughed up a 46-39 lead with under two minutes remaining.
Rockford 5-foot-5 point guard Nolan Bryant’s fifth 3-pointer of the contest helped the Rams claw to within two at 48-46 with 50 seconds remaining.
On the next possession, Grand Haven was too slow breaking the Rams’ full-court pressure and was called for a 10-second violation.
Rockford junior center Ryan Gamm drew a foul and connected on a pair of pressure-packed free throws to tie the contest with 22.9 seconds left, and Grand Haven called timeout with 16.5 seconds remaining and dialed up the winning play.
“It was designed just to make the open read,” Wiedeman said. “I was supposed to stay in the corner and Drew was going to kick it out if he needed to. But he made the right read and made a nice take.
“He’s hard to guard in practices too, so I know he’s capable of that. He’s hit some game-winners in the past.”
It wouldn’t have been a bad option to give Wiedeman the ball in the clutch, either, considering his red-hot shooting throughout.
He scored 12 of Grand Haven’s 14 points in the third quarter, all coming on pull-up or spot-up jumpers. He helped the Bucs take a 36-31 lead into the fourth quarter.
“I’ve been shooting pretty well the last few games and once I get going, I just keep going and going,” Wiedeman said. “I just tried to find the open spots tonight.”
“Tyler’s a really streaky shooter and when he gets hot, he gets really hot,” added Immink. “What a fun game for him as a senior.”
Grand Haven started the contest on fire, draining four 3-pointers and grabbing an 18-10 lead after one. The Bucs held Rockford scoreless through the first five minutes of the second quarter and surged to their largest lead at 22-10.
But Rockford closed the first half strong, turning in an 11-0 run, keyed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Bryant. He finished with 15 points, all on triples.
Wiedeman said the victory will be a huge confidence booster for Grand Haven, and not only because of the thrill of beating a rival on their home floor.
“Last Friday we lost to East Kentwood and we were a little upset because we didn’t play our best,” said Wiedeman, whose team is tied for second place in the conference. “I think this is really going to give us a boost. We got a big one next Friday against (undefeated) West Ottawa, so we’ll go into that with a lot of confidence.”
Forward Zac Holman had six rebounds for Grand Haven and Hewitt grabbed five.