Story and photos by Mike Gesler
Fremont 58 Grant 55
Even though the pandemic has severely limited attendance and almost silenced the atmosphere at our Newaygo County rivalry games, on the court one would be hard pressed to feel any impact at all. When Grant and Fremont get together, you know, pandemic or not, it’s going to be a battle. These two teams will dig in, exploit their opponent’s weaknesses, and fight to the bitter end. So while the first half of tonight’s game gave Grant fan’s little to cheer about, the second half had Fremont fan’s holding the collective breath with fingers and toes crossed.
“I thought our kids did a really good job early, but at Grant they are never going to go away,” shared Fremont’s coach, Peter Zerfas. From the start, the Packers were patient with the ball, passing, not rushing shots, waiting for Grant to make a mistake and then capitalizing. That patience gave Fremont a slight four point edge at the end of the first. But then the second quarter came. Fremont created turn over after turn over. The Tigers found themselves flat-footed, leaving their inside open, and watching a four point deficit grow to fifteen by the time the half buzzer sounded.
Now to a casual fan, at this point, this game appeared to be an easy one for Fremont. But Grant came out of the locker room determined to prove that fifteen points were but a mere flesh wound rather than the death blow Fremont fans hoped for. During the third, the Tigers frustrated the Packers by not allowing Fremont the looks from behind the arc and shutting down the inside lanes. It was the only quarter where one of the teams was held to single digits which allowed Grant, who still wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders, to chisel the lead down to a ten point difference. And then came the fourth quarter.
With ten points separating the two teams, Fremont and Grant locked into the battle going toe-to-toe. If Grant hit a three, Fremont answered with a three. If Grant put two on the board, Fremont answered with two. But then the bane of Fremont’s weakness reared its ugly head. Rather than having the chance to slow the pace down with their patient ball handling, Fremont suddenly found themselves at the line and the line was not the Packer’s happy place tonight. They had already missed seven straight free-throws in a row. Grant took full advantage of this weakness scoring ten to Fremont’s three, and with thirty seconds left in the game brought the defect to within one. The Packers then turned over the ball which gave the Tigers an easy two and found themselves in the lead for the first time.
Unfortunately, the Tigers were then called for a technical with twenty-three seconds left. Fremont hit three of their four free-throws plus got the ball back. Another trip to the line with nine seconds left gave Fremont one more point to make their lead by three which would hold for a Packer victory.
“We’ll take any win that we get here,” added Zerfas. “We talk about three things all the time to win basketball games and that’s take care of the ball, limited the other team’s offensive rebounds, and make free-throws. And tonight we had a fifteen point lead, and missed seven straight free-throws. I mean I really think we could have bumped that over twenty, and then it doesn’t get close. Credit to Grant. We missed our free-throws. They came down. They made a lot of shots, and a lot of different kids made shots to get them back into the game.”
Well, a typical Grant Fremont game down to the end. I wish we would be the ones on the victorious side,” Grant’s coach, Joe Schuitema, disappointingly shared. “I thought our guys really competed hard in the second half to erase a fifteen point deficit. I felt like it was a good effort in the last thirty-five seconds to try to for a couple of jump balls. I think our guys competed, and got after it, and it’s unfortunate but we’ll move on.”
Fremont was led by Braiden McDonald with twenty-two points, and Joshua Zerfas with seventeen. Also contributing to the Packer’s victory was Jordon McDonald (8), Lane Converse, Payton Mansfield, and Logan Nelson each with three, and Chase Rasmussen with two.
The Tigers were led tonight by Seth Schuitema with nineteen, and Orion Evans with sixteen. Elliot Butchart (8), Gage Burrows (6), Cole Lesley (4), and Brett Long (2) also contributed.