By Nate Thompson

HUDSONVILLE – Because of their offensive struggles, Grand Haven’s varsity boys basketball team has often needed to scrap, claw and outwork the opposition to find the victory column this season.

The go-to-war mindset wasn’t fully present against O-K Red Conference-leading Hudsonville on Friday, and the Bucs were dealt a hard-fought 52-44 setback, erasing any momentum they had following a victory over rival Rockford earlier in the week.

It was the tenth time this season the Bucs have been held under 50 points, but Grand Haven Coach Greg Immink was more frustrated about another statistic.

“They hammered us on the offensive glass,” said Immink, a graduate of Hudsonville High School. “That’s a very, very nice team. They’ve got a lot of nice pieces and they play well together. They do the little things that it takes to be successful. That’s why they’re 14-2 right now.”

Grand Haven got off to a tremendous start in the first quarter, jumping out to a 10-1 lead barely three minutes into the contest.

But the Eagles slowly began climbing back, thanks largely to their activity on the offensive glass. Immink said the Eagles had 14 second-chance points in the first half alone, with their trio of John Miller, Jack Joldersma and Stone Smeenge extremely active around the rim.

Grand Haven’s offense hit a dry spell in the second quarter, when the Bucs failed to record a field goal and their only points came from a pair of makes at the free throw line by senior point guard Casey Constant.

Hudsonville led 25-18 at the half, and the Eagles appeared to be ready to put the game away late in the third quarter, extending their advantage to 32-22. But the Bucs closed the quarter on a 7-0 run, keyed by a pair of low-post buckets by Owen Ross and Adam Strom, respectively, and a three-pointer by freshman Owen Worthington with three seconds left in the third.

Ross, who tied for the team lead with 10 points, continued his strong play early in the fourth quarter, scoring back-to-back buckets, including a nice turnaround jumper to bring the Bucs to within 34-33.

“Owen had a really nice stretch for us,” Immink said. “He made a couple nice moves down low and guys were finding him for his scoring.”

But Hudsonville closed the contest like a potential league champion, starting with a dunk in traffic by Joldersma, then another strong finish by the 6-foot-3 junior in the paint on the Eagles’ ensuing possession.

And the Eagles continued to pester the Bucs on the boards. Hudsonville scored off an offensive rebound after a missed free throw attempt with 1:18 to play, then did the same thing with 1:05 left, to put the Bucs in a 50-44 hole on the scoreboard.

Grand Haven never scored again, and fell to 9-7 overall and 4-4 in the O-K Red. The Eagles lead the conference with a 7-1 record.

Constant scored 10 points for the Bucs, while Drew Sinke scored eight.

Joldersma and Smeenge led the Eagles with 11 points apiece, while Miller scored 10.