By Nate Thompson
SPRING LAKE – Grand Rapids Catholic Central has been stewing for several months, in anticipation of a shot at revenge at Spring Lake,, the team that eliminated the Cougars from last season’s Class B regionals.
Behind a front line duo that could end up playing Division 1 college basketball and an improved supporting cast, Grand Rapids Catholic clobbered Spring Lake 80-39 on Friday in the O-K Blue Conference opener for both teams at Spring Lake High School.
Spring Lake falls to 5-2 overall and 0-1 in league action, while GRCC improves to 4-1 and 1-0.
The Cougars’ 6-foot-8 senior center Jacob Polakovich had 20 points and 12 rebounds, while 6-10 senior forward Marcus Bingham, a Michigan State commit, added 13 points.
But it was the Cougars’ supporting cast that helped turn the contest into a one-sided blowout.
“I’m sure they’ve had this game circled for a long time,” said Spring Lake coach Bill Core. “They deserve to hoot and holler like they did. They played great. I haven’t seen them play that well, and I’ve watched two of their four games. Their supporting cast really stepped up.”
Junior wing Darrell Belcher, a transfer from East Kentwood, led the Cougars’ cast of unsung stars with 19 points, including two of the team’s eight three-pointers.
It was a struggle for Spring Lake from the get-go. Bingham and Polakovich, operating in a 1-3-1 zone defensive set, looked like a wall of arms and turned the Lakers’ offense into constant hesitancy.
GRCC jumped out to an 18-4 lead after one quarter and Belcher scored seven in the second quarter to help the Cougars take a 32-13 advantage into the half.
“Defensively, they’re just so long,” Core said. “And they made it hard on our guards. I was a little disappointed because I was hoping we’d get more backdoor cuts and curls, but we got out there and it was a lot of 1-on-1 looks. They’re so good on helpside defense, with Bingham coming over across the lane and contesting everything.”
Polakovich, who is mulling several Division 2 offers and had drawn some Division 1 interest, had 10 of the Cougars’ 29 points in the third quarter, as their lead swelled to 61-29 after three.
“They played us tough three times last season, so we expected a very challenging game,” Polakovich said. “This year, we’ve got a lot more leadership from our younger guys, which helps with our depth. I think we’ve got some of the best guards in the state.”
Spring Lake senior center Sam Johnson led the Lakers with nine points, while senior Jack VanWingen added eight points and six rebounds.
GRCC outrebounded the Lakers 31-21, and forced them into 19 turnovers.
Core said he won’t dwell too much on the blowout, considering his squad has to prepare for a pair of conference contests next week, starting Tuesday with Sparta.
“I’m not even sure if I’ll bring it up on Monday (at practice),” Core said. “But if we want the Feb. 2 rematch to mean anything, we’ll have to look at ourselves in the mirror, dust ourselves off, coach a little better, work a little harder and find a way to get better.”