By Ron Rop

MUSKEGON–Any hopes of a rematch of last year’s Division 1 boys basketball district title were dashed on Wednesday night by a scrappy group of Coopersville Broncos.

The typically slow starting Broncos overcame early woes and surprised the Grand Haven Buccaneers 57-50 in a district semifinal game played at Muskegon High School.

A year ago, the Bucs stunned the Muskegon Big Reds in the district title game at Reeths-Puffer.

This time around, it was the Broncos who were celebrating a big victory, this time over the Bucs.

“We generally have started slowly,” Coopersville coach Pete VanKempen said. “We had to get used to Grand Haven. They are very athletic, but our motto has been to keep moving downhill.”

The outcome means the Broncos will face the host Big Reds at 7 p.m. Friday with a district title on the line. Muskegon routed Kenowa Hills in the second game of Wednesday night’s doubleheader.

Grand Haven made things look rather easy in the early going.

“I loved the way we started the ballgame,” Grand Haven coach Greg Immink said. “It was exactly what we wanted to do. I thought our defense played great. We held them to six field goals in the first half.”

The Bucs’ hard work in the defensive end led to blocked shots, altered shots and some awkward looking shot from the Broncos. Grand Haven led 16-7 after one quarter and 23-20 at the half. That slim lead was the result of tight defense since the Bucs were having issues with their shooting.

Once play resumed after halftime, Grand Haven as able to push the lead up to eight points before a key juncture occurred.

Luke Sanford hit a pair of 3-pointers 1 minute apart then Travis Rosel followed his a long range shot of his own and just like that, the Broncos had a 30-29 lead. The Broncos had all the momentum and the confidence that just maybe they could knock off the favored Bucs.

“We had a nice start and then they threw in three 3’s in a row and I think that was a big moment in the game,” Immink said. “If those don’t go, we’re in a little bit of a different situation. But, they did and that is to Coopersville credit.”

The Broncos owned a 41-35 lead after three quarters.

That signalled the start of a highly contested fourth quarter in which the Bucs tried to even the score, but were never able to regain the lead.

“Down the stretch we scrapped and we tried to get things moving a little bit more, but it was just wasn’t enough,” Immink said.”

Each time it appeared Grand Haven might make another run, the Broncos answered right back. Rosel canned a 3-pointer with 2:45 remaining that turned a 2-point lead into a 5-point advantage with 2:45 remaining.

From there, Coopersville (15-7) was able to hang on for the victory.

Coopersville was led by Sanford with 22 points, Rosel with 15 and Mark DeVries with 11 points.

Grand Haven was led by senior Bashir Neely, who used his athleticism to score 19 points. He made 9-of-10 from the free throw line. Also reaching double figures for the Bucs was junior Harrison Sorrelle with 11 points.

“Give the credit to Coopersville, they played a whale of a game,” Immink said. “It was a real good year for us.”

Grand Haven finished the season 17-4.

Check out photos from the action shot by Craig Smith.