Story and photos by Mike Gesler
Grant 85 Fremont 77
Like the Thunderdome from the Mad Max movie, Beyond Thunderdome, two teams entered the court at Grant Middle School, and only one was going to leave.
Well, leave with a share of the CSAA Gold Conference title that is.
Tonight was the much anticipated rematch of the Grant Tigers and the Fremont Packers. Because of illness, this game was postponed a week and a half from the originally schedule date. And over that week and a half, both the Packers and the Tigers took care of the business they needed to in order to come into tonight with the share of the conference title on the line. The last time these two teams met back in mid-January, Fremont rose as the victors in a close and hotly contested game. The last time the Tigers also had the help of their top defender, Brett Long. Tonight, Grant would have to do without his services.
The first quarter opened with Grant’s Seth Schuitema hitting an open three and Grant’s Carter Chase hitting for two before Braiden McDonald put Fremont on the board with two. Undeterred and left open, Schuitema hooked up for two more uncontested threes before Fremont called a time out. Coming out of the time out with Grant up by nine, Fremont regrouped. “When you come out and you don’t know where Schuitema is three straight times down the court, and they’re uncontested threes, that put us in a hole,” stated Fremont’s Coach, Peter Zerfas. But the Packers would go on a ten point run to close the quarter leading the Tigers by one. This would also be the lowest scoring quarter for either team.
The second quarter saw both teams now settled in and playing the type of ball that each are capable of playing. The Chase/Schuitema duo would frustrate the Packers who together combined to put up twenty-one of Grant’s thirty points for the quarter. And whenever the Packers would try to pressure both, that left a Grant player open under the boards. For the Packer’s part, Grant had a difficult time containing McDonald. And if they did close down McDonald, Tristian Campbell or Martin Curiel were ready and open for an uncontested three. When the halftime buzzer sounded, Grant had reclaimed the lead and went into the locker room up by seven.
Fremont came out of the locker room refreshed and ready to step up their game for the second half. They managed to keep Schuitema and Chase to only two points each for the quarter. With their speed and aggression amped up a notch, the Packers were finding easy steals, and wide open looks. They held Grant to only eight points for the better part of the quarter, and put up twelve to put the game within four before Grant’s Gage Burrows entered the game. Unprepared for Burrows’ ability to score from anywhere on the court, Chase and Schuitema often found him open. In the last few minutes of the quarter, Burrows became a one man scoring machine knocking down nine points helping to stretch the Tiger lead to ten points at the end of three.
With both teams foul counts adding up, the fourth quarter saw both teams at the line as much as putting up shots from the field. This slowed the pace of the game down, and worked in Grant’s favor. While the Packers did manage to outscore the Tigers by two in the fourth, it was not enough to overcome the ten point deficit that the Packers needed to make up. As the final buzzer sounded, Grant secured its share of the CSAA Gold Conference title with Central Montcalm, and the Packers found themselves alone in second.
“So proud of our guys for showing grit and toughness against a real good, talented Fremont team who can score in a variety of ways, and defend ninety-four feet. I think it took all of our effort, our skill, our toughness, and several guys to step up and contribute,” shared Grant’s coach, Joel Schuitema.
Grant will play Holton on Friday night to end regular season play. Fremont has the rest of this week off before turning around and once again facing the Tigers in Grant for the opening round of District play. You may want to be in the house for this game. Tipoff is set for 5:30 pm.
Four Grant players saw double digits tonight. Leading was Seth Schuitema with twenty-eight, followed by Carter Chase with twenty-two, Diesel Rose with eleven, and Orion Evans with ten. Gage Burrows had nine for the night, and Cole Lesley and Elliot Butchart had three and two respectively.
Five Fremont players also saw double digits. Braiden McDonald with twenty-four, Tristan Campbell with twelve, and Joshua Zerfas, Christian Kennedy, and Martin Curiel each with eleven. Carter Moon put up six, and Jaxx Miller contributed two.