Emotions were stirring for Bryce Taylor, Casey Constant, Owen Bitner, Mason Mahacek, Jon Elias and Trevor Holleman, as they prepared to take on the Grandville Bulldogs in an O-K Red Conference battle.
After a back-and-forth affair for most of the game, the Buccaneers used a 9-0 run to open the fourth quarter and held off a late rally from Grandville to walk away with a 64-62 win in front of their home crowd.
"I had the jitters a little bit at the beginning of the game," said Grand Haven senior guard Bryce Taylor. "Luckily, we came away with the win at the end. It was kind of a scary situation with that last shot they took, but we held on."
Grandville took a 10-9 lead into the second quarter, but Grand Haven's offense would start to click midway through the second frame, as the Buccaneers took a 26-23 lead into halftime.
The third quarter saw several lead changes, as both teams used crisp ball movement to exploit the opposing defense. The Buccaneers held a narrow 44-43 lead heading into the final quarter of play, before effort, energy and leadership helped spur the defining run of the game.
Quick hands on defense created easy points in transition for Grand Haven to start the fourth quarter, as the Buccaneers jumped out to a 53-43 lead midway through the quarter. The Bulldogs, however, used some late-game three-point heaves to cut the lead to just two points with 7.6 seconds left in the contest.
On the final possession of the game, a 3-pointer attempt from the corner rimmed out and a putback attack clanked off the back iron as the buzzer sounded. The Grand Haven players breathed a sigh of relief, as they avoided what would have been a heartbreaking loss at home.
Taylor and Constant each scored 14 points to lead the Bucs, while junior forward Owen Ross added 13 and freshman Owen Worthington added 10.
Alex Goodyear and Tommy Gregwer each scored 11 points to lead the Bulldogs, while Freddy Baker added 10 and T.J. Barnes added nine.
"Winning is hard, especially in this league," said Grand Haven head coach Greg Immink after the game. "We'll take them however we can get them. Tonight, we ended up with two more points than Grandville on the scoreboard and we're happy with that.
"We had a different lineup out there to start the game for Senior Night, and I was really proud of how hard those guys played out there to start the game. I think that really helped us establish some momentum early and not fall behind on the scoreboard."
Before tip-off, Immink told his underclassmen to pay attention to how the senior players carried themselves on this special night for the program.
"Before the game, Coach was telling all the younger guys to watch how hard the seniors play out on the court tonight," said Taylor. "He just wanted us to give it all we've got, especially for the seniors.
"Kellum Bridgeforth and Malic (Love) were really good role models last year, and I wanted to give as much effort as they did when I saw them out here on their Senior Night last year. I'm just happy we got the win tonight. None of us wanted to lose our last game here."
This year's senior class holds a special place for Immink, as the first four-year group in his program since taking over in 2015.
"What a great group," he said. "I'm proud of their work in terms of basketball — their commitment, their sacrifice, and effort that they've put into the program. More than that, though, is their work as students. They are all excellent students and do things the right way off the court, too.
"Anytime you have a group of kids that work hard on the court, in the classroom and does the right things off the court, you can't help but be proud as their coach."
Grand Haven (11-7, 6-4 O-K Red) travels to Caledonia (4-12, 0-9 O-K Red) on Tuesday, followed by their regular-season finale at East Kentwood (11-7, 6-4 O-K Red) on Feb. 22.
"These last two wins give us a lot of momentum to close out the regular season strong and get ready for districts coming in the next week and a half," said Taylor.
"Against Rockford and Hudsonville, we've gotten off to better starts than we normally do. Instead of scoring six or seven points, we're scoring 16 to 20. We're being smarter with the ball, beating teams down the court in transition and working hard for rebounds lately and it's helped us win some of these close games."
Junior varsity: Grandville defeated Grand Haven, 61-51. Landon Vanbeek scored 15 points to lead the Bucs, while L.J. Barber and Logan Melcher each added 12 points.