Story and Photos by Mike Gesler
Grant Varsity Girls Looking to Get the Jitters Out
Big Rapids 44 Grant 34
The Grant Varsity Tigers opened up their CSAA Gold conference play against the Lady Cardinals of Big Rapids. “This is our first conference game,” stated Paige Paulsen, Grant’s head coach. “We’re looking to get the jitters out, and play well.” Grant’s young squad would certainly be put to the test against a veteran Big Rapids team headed by seniors Kaitlyn Ray, Kelsey Walch, and Jayla Strickland; of whom both Ray and Strickland have the eyes of college scouts.
Regrettably for the Lady Tigers, the first half of play did not go as Coach Paulsen had hoped. “[Big Rapids] did what they wanted to. They established how they were going to play right away, and it kind of put us on our heels,” noted Coach Paulsen as Big Rapids jumped to the early lead and led by seven at the end of the first quarter. While the Lady Tigers were able to move the ball around the parameter, a lack of movement on the inside and the quickness of the Cardinals made for a dismal second quarter. The tigers were only able to net an addition four points with only two of those points off the field. The other two were earned on free throws. By the end of the half, it was looking like a long night for the Tigers as Big Rapids dominated the boards 27-11.
However, games are not won and lost in the first half, and a much more relaxed and focused Tiger team appeared in the second half. “We came out in the second half, and really didn’t back down; made a good run,” said Coach Paulsen. The Tigers limited Big Rapids to only ten points in the third quarter while gaining ground with 15 of their own. The fourth quarter continued to see the downward trend of Big Rapids finding the rim as the Tigers only allowed the Cardinals seven points. Unfortunately the Tigers couldn’t make it up due to a couple of turnovers and some easy Big Rapids layups by the time the final buzzer sounded losing to the Cardinals 44-34.
Junior Kylee Wemple lead the Tigers with 14 points, followed by sophomore Kirstyn Throop with nine, junior Jill Arends with seven, and junior Kylie Patton with four. Up next for the Tigers is the Eagles of Kent City on Tuesday, December 12 starting at 5:30 in the Grant Middle School gym.
Grant Varsity Boys Look to Prove They Can Compete
Big Rapids 65 Grant 61
The Grant Varsity Boys opened up their CSAA Gold conference play against the one team that kept them from a conference championship last year; the Cardinals of Big Rapids. Last year the Cardinals dominated the conference with Braeden Childress, Jakob Martinson, Jackson Lund, and Dorian Martin; all of whom returned to the Cardinal squad this year. “I wasn’t sure what [Big Rapids] had as far as a bench, but man those forwards are as good as anyone we have in our conference right now,” stated Tiger’s head coach Matthew McCorkle. “So I wasn’t sure what we were going to do because we’re inexperienced. I start two freshman, a sophomore, and two seniors; one who didn’t play a whole lot last year.” The Tigers were coming off a close lose to Whitehall on Tuesday night where returning sophomore Carter Chase put up 35 points so anticipations and hope were high that maybe the boards would fall Grant’s way this season.
Apparently Big Rapids received the memo about Chase’s work against Whitehall. Right from the opening tip off, Big Rapids made sure that Chase was well covered. The Cardinals jumped out to a nine point lead while Grant could not field a board for the first five minutes. But thanks largely to the determined play of Senior Tyler Naffziger, once the Tigers did find the net, it took only one minute for them to tie it up. From that point on, the Tigers were out to show Big Rapids it was game on. The Tigers began spreading out the shots which opened up Chase, and by the time play ended for the first half, the Tigers headed into the locker room with a one point lead 29-28.
The second half of play picked up right where the first half left off. Both teams battled hard switching leads, yet it seemed that Big Rapids always had an answer when Grant would get up on them. And with one minute remaining in the game, excitement was mounting as Grant evened up the score 61-61. Could David slew Goliath for a CSAA Gold upset? The Cardinals scored quick but left plenty of time for Grant to rise to the challenge. Unfortunately the Tigers were called for traveling in the Cardinals offensive half, and Big Rapids put up another board to stretch the lead to four with only eight seconds left on the clock. That proved to be too much for the young Tiger squad to overcome, and in the end Big Rapids avoided the upset winning 65-61. Carter Chase led the Tiger’s effort with 18 points, followed by Tyler Naffziger with 15, Michael Frey with 8, Alex Longcore with 7, Brett Long with 6, Cole Chase with 5, and Frederick Hull with 2.
“I think we can compete with anybody. Whether it’s Whitehall on Tuesday who goes 6’8” and 6’6”, and I go 6’3”, or we go against a team that’s really athletic like Big Rapids,” stated Coach McCorkle. “I think we can hang with anybody whether it’s big, small, whether they want to play physical, we’re up for the challenge. So I think we’re ready for anything… But credit to my guys, they stepped up and they’ve been doing it two games in a row. I just wish that the hard work would translate to some victories now.”
The Tigers next meet the Eagles of Kent City on Tuesday, December 12 starting at 7:00 in the Grant Middle School gym.