So far, it’s been a point of frustration for Hewitt and the Bucs.
After a tremendous showing on the road on Friday in a win against rival Muskegon, Grand Haven couldn’t match that same effort against another O-K Red Conference foe in Rockford at Grand Haven Fieldhouse. In fact, the Bucs probably played their worst stretch of basketball this season, as they were outscored 27-2 in a span of the final two minutes of the second quarter through end of the third.
“Coming off of Friday, we were hoping for a better showing than that,” Hewitt shrugged after his team fell 46-31 to the Rams, dropping Grand Haven’s record to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in league play.
Rockford remains in a first-place tie with East Kentwood atop the O-K Red with a 3-0 record. The Rams are 5-2 overall.
Despite facing a physical brand of man-to-man defense from Rockford, Grand Haven looked solid offensively in the early going, as it was patient offensively and moved the ball effectively. The Bucs claimed an 8-7 lead after one quarter, then rattled off a 7-2 spurt to start the second, complete with a beautiful back-door feed from Kevin LaCroix to a cutting Ethan Groothuis for an uncontested layup.
But Rockford turned the tide quickly to close out the half, thanks to its ability to force turnovers and the fact that Grand Haven standout guard Alex Eidson was strapped to the bench with two fouls.
“It’s a risk putting him in there because you don’t want him picking up a third (foul),” Hewitt said. “Things were going well. We’re up 15-11 and just hoping to keep it close going into the half.”
But Rockford closed the half on a 9-0 run, sparked by a big 3-pointer by 5-foot-7 point guard Chad Carlson. He scored 10 points, while the Rams’ biggest player, beefy 6-foot-6 center Ivory Johnson, led the team with 11.
Hewitt said he still felt good with his squad trailing by just four at the half, but the third quarter was disastrous for Grand Haven. The Bucs committed five turnovers, went 0-for-10 from the floor and were outscored 18-2 by Rockford.
“There were a couple (problems),” Hewitt said. “One, we had a couple bad possessions when we had the lead (in the second quarter). When we’re playing from behind, we tend to panic and force things offensively. It’s a matter of experience and making better decisions. At the same time, I thought we had some decent looks (in the third) and our shots just wouldn’t fall.”
Rockford first-year coach Nick Allen was pleased that his team has bought into his message of physical defense. It clearly helped clinch Tuesday’s win, as Grand Haven never crept closer than 13 points down following the 2:51 mark of the third quarter.
“We’re trying to make defense a staple here and sometimes we get it done and other times it’s lacking,” he said. “In the third, we did a better job of making it tough on Grand Haven, but I’m sure they don’t feel they executed as well as they probably could have.”
The Rams also made it tough on Eidson, the Bucs’ leading scorer at nearly 20 points per game. He struggled with his outside shot on Tuesday and his 13 points were aided by a 6-of-6 effort from the free throw line. He also had team-highs with three rebounds and three assists. No other Bucs’ player scored more than five points.
The Bucs finished the evening shooting just 30 percent from the floor and they totaled 19 turnovers.
“It wasn’t a surprise what Rockford wanted to do,” Hewitt said. “They put pressure on us and we turned it over too much. We have to do a better job taking care of the ball. We got to learn from this.”
The Bucs’ first chance to bounce back will be Friday, with West Ottawa visiting Grand Haven Fieldhouse.