By Nate Thompson
The Buccaneers and Lakers played a tense, back-and-forth thriller before a packed house at Spring Lake High School on Friday evening.
The visiting Bucs displayed just a little more resiliency down the stretch, pulling out a 53-52 victory in overtime that left fans from both schools applauding the players’ efforts at the end.
Grand Haven improved to 2-0 on the season while Spring Lake suffered its first loss and fell to 3-1.
Grand Haven senior wing Zac Holman, who struggled to find his shot against a swarming Lakers’ defense throughout the contest, finally got into a groove when it mattered the most.
He swished a 12-foot jumper, then had a steal and went coast-to-coast for a layup, for the opening points of overtime. Those four points gave the Bucs just enough of an edge to hold off the never-say-die Lakers.
“Every time I got the ball, I saw four or five guys just eyeing me down,” said Holman, who finished with 10 points, a big drop off after pouring in a career-high 32 in the season opener last week against Mona Shores. “But credit to my teammates also. They stepped up in a huge way.”
The game was tied 49-49 at the end of regulation.
Holman’s early outburst in overtime didn’t quite put the Bucs in a comfort zone. The Lakers had an opportunity to tie the game with 1:09 left when junior guard Jack VanWingen drove the baseline, scored and was fouled.
But his potential game-tying free throw missed the mark, keeping the Bucs up by a point.
Spring Lake finished 10-for-24 from the free throw line.
Grand Haven gave Spring Lake another opportunity in OT after the Bucs missed the front-end of a 1-and-1 free throw opportunity, but the Lakers couldn’t connect on a pair of close-range shots in traffic.
“We got shots (at the end), but they wouldn’t go in,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core. “We got four shots in a row.”
On the second miss, Grand Haven senior forward Ross Koella was able to snatch the rebound while lying on the floor and was tied up with just 1.8 seconds left. Spring Lake had the possession arrow, and Core called time out to set up one last play.
The Lakers tried to feed their best low-post scorer – junior Griffin Lorimer – but the ball was slapped away by a defender as he cut into the paint, and time expired as the players clawed for the loose ball.
Grand Haven coach Greg Immink said his squad was “pumped” about pulling out the thrilling win, because it required the Bucs to dig deep.
Grand Haven had a 39-36 lead entering the fourth quarter, but Spring Lake roared back with an 11-0 spurt in the fourth quarter to take a 49-44 lead.
The Bucs were able to score the last five points of regulation and force overtime thanks to back-to-back plays by junior guard Kellum Bridgeforth. He drilled a huge corner 3-pointer with 2:05 left in the fourth, and then after a Bucs’ defensive stop, made a perfect dish to streaking teammate Malic Love, who made a layup to tie the game with 1:28 left.
“When the chips were down and it looked like it might be tough for us to pull it out, our kids dug in,” Immink said. “And we got a steal, we got a big rebound, we got a key basket. And then in the last 1.8 (seconds), we didn’t allow a shot.
“It was one of those ESPN’s instant classics.”
Landman led the Bucs with 14 points, all coming in the first half. His three 3-pointers in the second quarter helped Grand Haven fight back after trailing 13-8 after one quarter. The lead changed hands seven times in the second quarter, with the Lakers taking a tight 28-25 halftime lead.
VanWingen led the Lakers with 16 points, while Lorimer added 13.
Although he said his team was devastated by the loss, Core said the contest is one he won’t soon forget.
“Tonight was an instant classic,” he said. “Probably the greatest Spring Lake-Grand Haven game ever. One-point game, packed house. I don’t think anyone led by more than five points the whole game.”
In Holman’s eyes, it was a perfect night for the Bucs, who celebrated with the traveling trophy while being mobbed by their student section that rushed the court after the game.
“We knew it was a big game, but it turned out to be a huge game,” he said.