Story and photos by Mike Gesler
Grant 63 Tri County 59
A month ago when the Grant Tigers met up against the Tri County Vikings, it was on Tri County’s court and the Tigers stunned the Vikings with an 87-63 win. A month ago the flu hadn’t claimed any players for either side, but now it had. Most notably was the absence of Grant’s Carter Chase. A huge blow to the Tigers. And if Chase’s absence wasn’t enough, the Tigers would also have to do without their main defensive hustler, Brett Long, who is out for the remainder of the season with a broken ankle he suffered in last Friday’s game against Chippewa Hills.
Because of the absence of Chase and Long, the Tigers were forced to put an untested lineup into the start of the game. Retaining their starting positions were Seth Schuitema, Diesel Rose, and Elliot Butchart. Orion Evans and Gage Burrows would replace Chase and Long to fill out the remaining two spots. “We have never had that lineup on the court, and I thought they handled themselves well,” stated Grant’s coach, Joel Schuitema.
Tri County would be first to put points on the board with two from Nicholas Braunschneider. Grant’s Gage Burrows then answered back with three, followed by two from Seth Schuitema. Yet, the Vikings knew they had the opportunity to take one from Grant, and began to put up one tremendous fight coming back with four of their own. This is how the game would go. Both teams battling hard with physical and aggressive play. By the time the half buzzer sounded, the Vikings were only down by four and had made a statement they were not the same team they were a month ago.
Like sharks circling a wounded prey, Tri County could smell the blood in the water. The third quarter saw the Vikings out hustle and out board the Tigers. They held the Tigers to eleven points while amassing sixteen points of their own to go into the fourth quarter with a four point lead. However, wounded prey are not dead prey.
Tri County was more than content on slowing play down to start the fourth. Who could blame them? After all, what is the best way to keep your opponent from scoring then by keeping the ball out of their hands. And for the first couple minutes, it seemed that Grant was content in allowing Tri County to have their desire. However, Coach Schuitema has been down this road, and called a time out. With his team back on track, Grant came out of that time out and quickly evened the score. This is how the next three minutes would play out. Tri County would go up by a point or two, and Grant would tie it up. That was until Seth Schuitema hit a three point bucket with less than two minutes on the clock which finally gave Grant their first lead since the third. Schuitema and Burrows then went on to combine for nine points to re-edge the Vikings, and ensure a four point Tiger victory.
“We are excited to get a victory. It was a tough battle. Both teams were without some players, and dealing with sickness as many teams are right now. We had guys come off the bench and handle themselves well. Kind of the next man up mentality, and I’m really proud of them for that. It felt a little bit chaotic at times, and I thought they mentally handled it,” shared Coach Schuitema. “We’re proud of them.”
Seth Schuitema had a season high thirty points to lead the Tiger victory. Gage Burrows also put up a season high with fourteen. Orion Evans hit for nine points while Cole Lesley and Diesel Rose each had four. Elliot Butchart also contributed with two of his own. Grant retains its share in a three way conference tie for first at 9-2 with Central Montcalm and Fremont. They will face Fremont for a conference showdown on Friday night in Grant.