By Steve Gunn
GRAND HAVEN – The Grand Haven Buccaneers are a young, fairly inexperienced basketball team.
But when they’re playing well – like they have been so far all season – they look like a bunch of seasoned veterans.
That was the case again on Tuesday, when the Bucs opened the game with a three-point blitz and rolled past an up-and-coming Reeths-Puffer squad 69-43 on their home court.
Grand Haven, which had to replace four starters from last year’s squad, improved to 6-1 on the season. Reeths-Puffer fell to 3-3.
“We’ve got a few guys who can put the ball in the hoop from a distance,” said Grand Haven Coach Greg Immink, whose team made 11 3-pointers, and had six different players hit triples. “We’ve shot quite a few (3-pointers) and made quite a few. It’s definitely something that’s been an advantage for us so far.
“We’re still somewhat of a young team. We start a sophomore and two juniors, but our senior leadership has been big, and (juniors) Casey Constant and Bryce Taylor have done a great job of helping to set the foundation.
“We’ve been playing good basketball. We’re getting a lot of good experience in kind of the preseason before our O-K Red Conference schedule.”
On paper, Tuesday’s game looked like a pretty good matchup between two promising teams with a lot of talented younger players.
But Grand Haven took control from the beginning with red-hot shooting from 3-point land.
The Bucs scored all of their first-quarter points with six triples and led 18-12 at the first buzzer. Taylor and Constant led the assault with two 3-pointers apiece.
Grand Haven stayed hot for the first half of the second quarter and built a 17-point lead, 30-13, with 4:35 remaining.
The Rockets chipped away over the last half of the second quarter, going on a 9-1 run and pulling within nine points, 31-22, at halftime.
But the Bucs lowered the boom in the third quarter, opening up with an 19-4 run over the first 5 1/2 minutes to take control of the contest. Constant led the way with seven points in the third quarter, including a three-pointer. Taylor and Malic Love each added triples during the decisive surge.
“We cooled off a bit in the second, but we came out with a lot of energy after halftime,” Immink said. “I thought our defensive pressure made a difference, and when you shoot the ball well everything works out better, too.”
Reeths-Puffer Coach Lance Johnson was disappointed to see his team claw its way back into contention by halftime, only to lose its momentum in the third quarter.
“We battled in the first half and were only down by nine at halftime, despite giving up eight 3-pointers to six different guys,” Johnson said. “But they came out in the third quarter and really took it to us. Our guys didn’t handle their pressure very well. They were the more physical team in the second half, and that’s something we have to learn from. We can’t let that happen again.”
Constant led a balanced Buc attack with 13 points, including three triples. Love added 12 points, including two 3’s, while Taylor had nine, all coming on 3-pointers.
Freshman Kaleb Mitchelson had 14 points, including three triples, for Reeths-Puffer.