So…..darn….close. So close to a victory over the 800 pound gorilla, the “evil empire,” the King of the Mountain.
If anyone went into the Thursday night game against Hanover Horton with an attitude that they would be happy if Grass Lake could just keep it close, I would suspect that that same person “got greedy” late in the fourth quarter when the Warriors had a chance to steal a win over the #3 ranked team in the state for Division 3/Class C, and perennial local power Hanover Horton. Instead the Warriors lost 43-40.
This was a close game throughout. It was tied 6-6 after the first, 19-19 at halftime, and 28 all after the third. Neither team had more than a five-point lead throughout the contest. That is not to say that the close nature of the game equated to excellent play. Both teams suffered numerous turnovers and missed easy baskets during the contest. When the Comets brought out their press, they were able to capitalize on Grass Lake mistakes from unforced errors while trying to counter the defensive pressure.
But the Warriors did play very good team defense in holding the powerful Comets to its lowest offensive total of the season. They had a chance to pull away midway through the fourth on a Trae Ruggles drive to the basket that would have put Grass Lake up by 5. But the twisting layup attempt popped out when it looked like it was going to fall in for two. Hanover Horton snagged the rebound and scored on a four-point swing which was especially significant in a low-scoring game late in the fourth. Four point swings don’t mean as much when it is in the 80s. But such moments are extra meaningful in a low scoring game with just a few minutes to play.
Down 41-39, Ruggles’s last second drive to the basket resulted in a foul and a chance to tie the game to it into overtime from the free throw line. After making the first, the second rattled around and looked like it was going to fall. But the iron was unkind. Grass Lake quickly fouled on the Comet rebound, and with 0.8 seconds to go, Hanover made two free throws to set up their final margin of victory.
Ruggles led all scorers with 15 points while Xavier Bargesser added 13. If both teams manage to win their districts, they would meet in the opening round of regionals.
And if that happens, I can assure you there will be plenty of nervous Hanover Horton fans in the stands.