Grand Haven’s varsity boys basketball team battled back from 17 points down for a stunning 68-66 overtime victory over the O-K Red Conference-leading Rockford Rams.
“I’m proud, and I’m speechless,” Bucs’ coach Steve Hewitt said after the contest. “I’ve never been a part of a game like this. I’m extremely pleased at our efforts and our guts in the fourth quarter.
“I’d love to say it was coaching, but it was our kids tonight. They did an outstanding job.”
The Buccaneers were down 47-31 in the third quarter thanks to a barrage of 3-pointers by the host Rams. Rockford knocked down eight 3-pointers in the first half alone.
Grand Haven began to chisel away at the lead thanks to a trapping defense that gave Rockford fits, and an offensive explosion by senior guard Ethan Groothuis.
Groothuis poured in 13 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter alone, including three 3-pointers that helped turn the momentum in Grand Haven’s favor. Groothuis’ triple with 17 seconds remaining in regulation pulled the Bucs to within a point at 59-58.
Bucs’ point guard Sean Steffel, who finished with a game-high 28 points, also hit a pair of fourth-quarter triples. After Rockford’s Chad Carlson split a pair at the free throw line with 12 seconds remaining, Steffel drove to the basket, was fouled and made both free throws to tie the contest at 66-all with 6.4 seconds to play.
Rockford missed a desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We had called a time out to set up a play for a 3 (with Carlson on the line), but they missed the second,” Hewitt said. “Sean and Ty (VanWieren) had the wherewithal to ball screen and attack the basket. Sean got to the line, and that was just a savvy move on his part.”
In overtime, both teams traded turnovers and missed shots before the Bucs’ Connor Grimes scored for the Bucs.
After Rockford scored, Steffel drove to the basket and scored again for a 64-62 advantage.
Rockford split a pair at the line, then with 32 seconds to play, Groothuis was fouled and rattled in a pair of foul shots for a 66-63 lead.
The Bucs got a stop on defense, then Steffel was fouled and his two foul shots made it 68-63 with 11 seconds to play.
Rockford’s Casey Watters hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but it was too little, too late.
“We were down 15 points right away in the fourth quarter, and we just pressed all over the place,” Hewitt said. “It’s something we practice all the time, but typically, we don’t press too often. I’m beginning to think maybe we need to do more of that.
“On offense, we were in the double bonus, so we were trying to attack, and we were getting to the free throw line. That helped us. In the fourth quarter and overtime, we were 11-of-15. Sean and Ethan both hit huge free throws in the fourth quarter. That’s great. That’s something you want your seniors to do is step up in that spot.”
Watters led Rockford with 15 points, including three of the Rams’ 12 3-point baskets.
Kevin LaCroix, who also hit a pair of crucial fourth-quarter free throws, had a team-high seven rebounds. VanWieren, who fouled out in overtime, added six boards.
The Bucs are off Tuesday and will host Grandville next Friday.