I don’t know what East Jackson head coach Rodney Lowden said to his players after they fell to Grass Lake 62-51 in the opening round of district play. But I know what I would have said.
“Boys? I mean, men? You gave a tremendous effort. You played with heart and guts, giving it everything you had and then some. You never gave up and you made it very difficult for Grass Lake. You displayed courage, resolve, and toughness. The East Jackson community should be very proud of you guys.”
Grass Lake led after one by a score of 17-7, but East Jackson found their mojo and won the second quarter 20-10. While Grass Lake pulled away in second half following a 27 all score at halftime, East Jackson was like Rocky. They kept getting knocked down but would fight back by hitting long range bombs from behind the arc, made making other opportunistic plays on offense, and played tough in-your-face defense. They played like a team that had nothing to lose and had an aura of confidence that defied their 3-17 regular season record. Late in the game they chopped down a 16 point deficit into 6, but Grass Lake’s late free throw expertise was enough to give them a double digit victory.
For Grass Lake it was a win led not by the Terrific Two of Trae Ruggles and Xavier Bargesser, but rather by players like Louis Good and Josh Hordeczny. Good’s confidence has soared following his heroic performance in Grass Lake’s upset win over Chelsea. Against the Trojans he displayed solid driving and dishing with six points and five assists. And while Ruggles and Bargesser had 19 and 10 points respectively, the #1 star has to go to Hordeczny who tallied a double-double with a career high 17 points and 10 rebounds. Over the last three games, additional Warriors have stepped up their play at the perfect time as they show the rest of the MHSAA that Grass Lake is not just a two-man team.
Grass Lake advances to Wednesday night’s second round game against Jackson Lumen Christi at 7 pm. And while I write articles for the Grass Lake Boys Basketball program, I have to give a special shoutout to two of the seniors from East Jackson, Austin Jackson and Jared Swiontek. I remember these two from coaching against them during the grade school tournament circuit back in the day. Former Grass Lake basketball coach and current East Jackson High School Principal Joel Cook has given a ringing endorsement to the players on the Trojan roster as fine young men. And if they are good enough for Joel Cook then that is good enough for me. While their high school basketball careers are over, I strongly suspect the grit and toughness they displayed as players will serve them very well to be successful long after high school.
So a tip of the hat to the Trojans, and a shout out to the Warriors on a well earned win.