BY MATT DEYOUNG AND NATE THOMPSON
Friday will mark the sixth straight year that Grand Haven and Spring Lake boys basketball teams have met for an early-season showdown.
While the battles on the court have been decidedly one-sided — Grand Haven has won all five games by double-figures — the competition between cheering sections have been fierce.
Grand Haven, the big Class A school with nearly 2,000 students, views itself as the Big Brother in the rivalry, as they're quick to remind Lakers' fans.
Spring Lake, with less than 1,000 students, is clearly the underdog each time the teams face off, but don't tell that to the Core's Crazies.
They're convinced this is their year to win on the court, and according to senior Jonny Mundt, the Lakers' fans will be far superior to the visiting Bucs as well.
"It won't even be a competition," said Mundt, one of the senior boys who occupy the front row of the stands at all Lakers' home games.
"Friday's going to be a great game," Batts added. "Both teams are great."
The Lakers have a little extra chip on their shoulder this year. The Bucs' leading scorer is senior point guard Sean Steffel, who played at Spring Lake before transferring to that school down south.
Fellow senior Ethan Groothuis is also a former Laker.
The Core's Crazies are taking matters into their own hands to make sure Steffel doesn't lead the Bucs to victory on Friday night.
"Usually, we try to pick out a couple players, get in their heads," Mundt said.
"Friday it's going to be Sean and Ethan," Linsman said. "Our main target is Sean Steffel."
The Lakers use a variety of cheers throughout the game. Their mainstays are "Lock-up" when their team is on defense, and "We've got the Munchies" when the Lakers' leading scorer, Austin Johnson, starts heating up. Johnson's nickname is "Munchies."
"We chirp at all the players, and if you put up an air ball, you're never going to hear the end of it," Batts said.
While the Lakers' student section will be decked out in their matching gray Core's Crazies T-shirts — more than 200 of them were sold this year — Grand Haven will respond by wearing camouflage clothing.
"Our student section has no name, but we have a reputation,” said Buccaneers’ senior Anthony Perrier. “I guess we're known for the themes we come up with that everyone follows. Friday, it will be camo night."
"We don't necessarily have a leader, but we'll start talking about (potential themes) at school, then kids will start Tweeting each other back and forth and we'll go from there. We have what we call a Grand Haven Tweet Squad, but it's kind of unofficial."
Perrier said the Bucs' "super fans" are extremely loyal. He's often joined by fellow classmates Jeff Olsen, Ryan Kaufman, Jake Lovett and Grant Gifford at numerous Bucs' sporting events throughout the school year.
"We go to everything," Perrier said. "We'll go to the occasional swim meet, but the big ones are basketball and hockey. Hockey games are a lot of fun."
Perrier said specific cheers depend a lot on how the game turns out, and are often spontaneous. While the students don't have a favorite cheer, a loyal stand-by when a victory is all but assured is the "I believe" cheer. The group in unison belts out, "I believe...I believe that... I believe that will win! I believe that we will win!"
That cheer was a staple of Bucs' fans throughout the girls' basketball team's memorable run through the Class A state tournament last year, including at Michigan State's Breslin Center in East Lansing during the state semifinals victory over Inkster. But they had to hold their collective breath in the championship game against Grosse Pointe South, which wasn't decided until the closing seconds.
Perrier believes Friday's clash between the Lakers and Bucs won't hold the same drama.
"I'm saying we'll double them up: 60-30. I know that's cocky," he said with a smile. "But it's always a heated game between their fans and ours. We consider them our 'little brothers,' and it will always be that way."
Grand Haven varsity boys' coach Steve Hewitt said student sections on both sides adds to the electric atmosphere of the annual showdown.
"It creates an atmosphere that these kids don't get to play in front of very often," he said. "I know it would be a shame not to be able to play that game in front of that crowd. I've said that every year. I think it's great for the kids and the communities. Everyone has a lot of fun with it, even though it's an intense kind of fun.
"There seems to be some key kids in school who have taken the leadership and really made it a lot more festive," he added. "Those guys, along with our band director, have really done some neat things."
Spring Lake High School principal Mike Gilchrist said he's thrilled to see a positive environment at basketball games, as long as the focus remains in the proper place.
He said athletic director Cavin Mohrhardt selects captains each year and lays down some ground rules.
"You've got to get the kids who are going to make good choices," Gilchrist said. "Cavin really emphasizes sportsmanship. It's important that you're not rooting against the other team — as much as that's possible.
"We do the Core's Crazies T-shirts, and we tall about what cheers they can do. We're real careful about them. We sold 220 Core's Crazy shirts. That's 30 percent of our student body."
Mohrhardt, who also coaches the Lakers' junior varsity boys basketball team this winter, isn't making any predictions when it comes to Friday's games, but he knows which school will have the best fan following.
"We have the best student section in West Michigan," he said.