Sam Krist and Nate Bareno go up against the Big Reds for the ball. Krist led the team with 17 points. ~ Photo by "Papa" Razzi Sports Photography
By Randy Gregory
Muskegon rolled into Rockford on Friday, Dec. 14, sporting lofty expectations and a preseason ranking as high as No. 2 in the entire state from the Detroit Free Press. Rockford has kind of flown under the radar thus far despite a 3-0 start against a trio of talented teams (East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Union and Spring Lake). The Big Reds had yet to take the court for an official game, and were in for a rude awakening when this contest tipped off.
Ram Kaden Seelye works his way down the court. ~ Photo by "Papa" Razzi Sports Photography
Using precision three-point shooting and a stingy extended zone defense, the Rams jumped out to a 17-6 lead after the first quarter that grew to 35-12 at the half. The shell-shocked Big Reds never got closer than 15 points over the duration of the contest and the Rams eventually went on to a surprisingly easy 65-47 triumph before a sizable contingent of both home and visiting fans.
“I’m thrilled for our kids tonight,” said Rams head coach Kyle Clough. “That is a really, really good team over there in Muskegon and our guys really dominated from start to finish. Our guys were so fearless, which I thought would be a major key to the game.”
Bennett Williams leads the way down the court. ~ Photo by "Papa" Razzi Sports Photography
Led by their talented duo of sophomore guards Sam Krist and Brendan Schueller, Rockford successfully navigated their way through the multiple defensive looks Muskegon threw at them over the course of the contest. Whether it was man to man, half-court trap or a full-court press, the Rams always seemed to have an answer, though they did go stagnant at times and let Muskegon at least stay within shouting distance.
Krist nailed four of Rockford's twelve three-pointers on the night, while leading the Rams with 17 points. For his part, Schueller didn't score until the final quarter but deftly handled the Big Red pressure while consistently finding the open man while getting countless wide open looks for his teammates. Schueller ended up with six points that all came at the free throw line as Muskegon resorted to fouling late in an effort to get back in the game.
Ashton Pokorzynski added 13 points toward the Ram victory over the Big Reds. ~ Photo by "Papa" Razzi Sports Photography
Balance was the name of the game for Rockford throughout the rest of the lineup as Ashton Pokorzynski added 13 points and several intimidating blocks that deterred Muskegon from attacking the rim with any regularity. Nate Bareno added eight points and a physical presence inside while Bennett Williams also added eight key points to the Rams’ cause. Kaden Seelye and Andrew Carlson came through with seven and six points, respectively, to help key the huge Ram win.
“Our balance tonight really speaks volumes to this team,” Clough continued. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if nobody cares who scores or gets the credit, this team can be special.”
The first quarter saw Rockford jump out to a quick 5-0 lead that forced a Big Red timeout. But the break did nothing to stem the tide as the lead grew to 17-6 at the end of the quarter on a Carlson triple. The second quarter saw more of the same as the lead reached 24-9 on another Carlson three and 27-9 when Pokorzynski added one of his own. The half fittingly ended when Williams hit another three-pointer at the buzzer to give Rockford a 35-12 lead and send the home crowd into a frenzy.
Muskegon was able to score the first two baskets of the second half off of defensive pressure to get within 35-16 but Rockford always had an answer whenever a mini run looked imminent. That quarter concluded with Rockford still holding a 52-31 lead with only eight minutes to play.
Ram Nate Boreno goes up against a Muskegon defender. ~ Photo by "Papa" Razzi Sports Photography
Rockford quickly pushed the lead to 58-31 in the final quarter but sketchy free throw shooting late form Rockford enabled them to crawl to within 62-47 with just over a minute remaining. The only sticking point of the evening for the Rams was their 7-for-13 effort at the stripe in the final quarter that included missing the front end of several one and ones.
“Lastly, I want to give a shoutout to some of our guys that come off the bench,” said Clough. “Alex Varady, Scott Cargill, Gabe Holman, JT Guzman and Ben Bosscher. Nobody got to see the impact they had on our team this week, but our other players know. Muskegon is such a hard team to emulate in practice because of their speed and quickness. Those guys I mentioned gave us incredible looks, and helped create high level practices. That was a big key in this game that not many people will know about.”
The Rams return to action immediately when they travel to Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills to square off against Okemos, Saturday, Dec. 15, at 1:45 p.m.
Point guard Brendan Schueller is sandwiched by two Muskegon defenders. ~ Photo by "Papa" Razzi Sports Photography
Tag(s): Basketball - Boys