Boys varsity basketball falls to Grandville 66-64 in heartbreaker

Matthew Mahoney

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En route to a heartbreaking 66-64 loss to the Grandville Bulldogs, junior Jimmy Scholler put up an impressive 21 points, with a majority coming off of spot-up shots and stunning drives to the hoop.

“While the points were nice, the win was what we wanted tonight,” Jimmy said.

Although Jimmy was the game’s leading scorer, he was complemented by teammates junior Mitchell Wilkinson, who had 15 points, and senior Daniel Deindorfer, who had 9.

The theme of the first half for the Rangers was the defense struggling and the offense clawing their way back. Straight off the bat, the Rangers fell in a deep hole with a quick 12-0 deficit. Grandville sophomore guard TJ Barnes was a problem all night; his early three-pointers, as well as another one from fellow guard Bryce Gable, had the Rangers looking shocked and sluggish. After a swift timeout from head coach Kyle Carhart, FHC came out with a new sense of urgency, getting the ball down to senior Jake Ball for an easy score. However, immediately after the Bulldogs swung right back with another three-pointer, making the deficit for the Rangers 13 points halfway into the quarter.

This early slow start has been a common theme for the Rangers so far this season, as they have gone down 10 points early in two of their first three games.

“[Going down early] is a habit we are trying to break,” Daniel said. “Our intensity needs to get higher from the get-go.”

Thankfully for the Rangers, these deficits are things they have proven they can fight back from.

“We always seem to come back because we are good with adversity and have a determination to show our resilience,” Daniel said. “We repeatedly have shown that a 10-point deficit means nothing, but we need to work on not getting into that situation in the first place.”

Just when the game seemed to be slipping away, senior Jay Shields took advantage of his moment. As he hit a three-pointer from the corner, the home crowd got back into the game, and the energy in the gym heated up, just like the players on the court did. Jimmy started to catch some steam, as he ended the first quarter with 6 points and a buzzer-beater mid-range jump shot. At the end of the first quarter, the Bulldog lead had decreased from a gruesome 13 points to a doable 21-13 Grandville advantage.

The beginning of the second quarter was more of the same. The Bulldogs went on an early run, only to be halted by a Jay Shields three-pointer and a bucket from Jimmy. Just when it looked like the game was slipping away from the Rangers, Jimmy came up with some huge baskets down the stretch as well as some great passing and decision making.

“[Jimmy’s] decision making is what makes him so lethal because you never know what he’ll pull out of his bag of tricks,” said Daniel about Jimmy’s ability to draw defenders away from his teammates to create easy buckets for his offensive counterparts.

A huge momentum shifter in the first half came with 4:49 remaining in the second quarter. A ball was thrown into Daniel, who layed it into the hoop for the basket plus the foul. This made the game 29-25, with Grandville leading. On a three-point attempt, Jimmy was followed while shooting. He made all three of them, tying the game up at 29 apiece with 3:19 remaining in the half. With a three-pointer from Mitchell and a pair of buckets from the Bulldogs before the half, the Rangers went into the locker room trailing 35-32.

In the first half, it was a battle of the point guards, with Jimmy having 13 points already at the break. However, his opposite in TJ Barnes also scored in double figures in the first half with 11 points. TJ scored three baskets from behind the arc while adding a nifty drive and layup move for 2. If the Rangers wanted to win this game, they needed to lock up Jones defensively.

“TJ is a very good player,” Jimmy said. “He’s really quick and he can really shoot the ball. It was tough to stop him.”

The Rangers tried a multitude of defensive strategies against TJ, and they were met with mixed results. Although FHC played some good defense, his shots still went in.

“To his credit, he made it extremely difficult [to cover him] and made shots all over the floor,” Carhart said. “He was comfortable and confident the entire game.”

As play resumed, the game was more of the same. Punch after punch was thrown by each time offensively; as soon as Grandville made a basket, the Rangers came right back with one for themselves. In the third quarter, the Bulldog lead reached above 2 points only once.

While FHC picked up the slack on offense, defensively was still a little disorganized. TJ would drive for a score or kick it to a shooter on the outside for a bucket almost every trip. Jimmy followed up his strong first half with another 4 points in the third quarter, while Jones had 7 in the third for the Bulldogs. At the end of the third, the Rangers were still behind by 2 points, losing 47-45.

Once again, the fourth quarter began with some back-and-forth buckets. Down the stretch, Daniel Deindorfer became a huge threat down low. While he hadn’t done much on the offensive end up until that point, Dan didn’t let that affect him. In a minute span during the middle of the fourth quarter, Deindorfer had and-1 baskets on two consecutive trips, tying the game up both times. His strength down low showed a threat that the Rangers haven’t utilized as much in the past, which is dishing it down low and letting the big guy do his thing.

“Dan’s ability to finish plays late in the game on offense was encouraging to see,” Carhart said.

With the Rangers still trailing late in the fourth, Jimmy came up clutch once again, as he stole the ball from the Bulldog guard and finished it strong at the hoop to give FHC the 62-61 lead with 1:22 left in the game. Coming up the court, Grandville took their sweet time on the offensive end, trusting that they would get a bucket on this possession. Just like they drew it up, their leading scorer from last year, Freddy Baker, drained a three from long range to switch the lead over to the Bulldogs 64-62 with 45 seconds remaining. Jimmy drove down the court, waiting for a screen to pop up. He used the screen to his advantage, blowing by his defender for the finish at the rim. However, the game was only tied, 64-64 with 30 seconds still left in the game. 

TJ Barnes dribbled the ball for 24 seconds until the Grandville head coach called a timeout with 6 seconds on the clock. The ball was passed into Freddy Baker, who was pushed away from the hoop and forced into a fadeaway layup. Nonetheless, he finished the shot, giving the Bulldogs the lead with only 1.5 seconds left. The Rangers called a quick timeout but were left with having to inbound the ball from their own baseline. The ball was inbounded to Jimmy, who put up a half-court desperation heave that came short of hitting the rim.

Unfortunately, the Rangers fell to the Bulldogs 66-64. However, there were many positives to grasp out of this defeat. Scoring came from all over the Ranger roster and from people who haven’t made as big of an impact so far this season on the offensive side of things. Being able to fight back from a lot of lengthy deficits is something you don’t always see in teams. This team has the potential to be something special.

“It was great to see [Jay] Shields show his ability to knock in shots. I know he was disappointed that he missed some good looks in Traverse City, so I was happy for him,” said Carhart when asked about some positives about the game.