The Marc Comstock Era got off to an ideal start for any basketball coach who is coaching his first game at a new program. His Grass Lake Warriors got the win, and there are plenty of things for him to work on with his players as he now prepares to coach his next set of practices before their second game on Friday.
Led by the Bargesser brothers Xavier and Brennen, who combined to score 32 points, Grass Lake held off a plucky Leslie Blackhawk squad in the opening game of the season for both schools, securing a 57-51 win on their home court. Trae Ruggles contributed 13 points which included a slam dunk. He also showed that over the course of the season he will distribute more dimes than the tellers at the local CP Federal Credit Union with his pinpoint passing which led to several easy baskets for his teammates.
While Grass Lake was in control of the game throughout the entire contest, they did not show a consistent level of solid play, struggling at times to show a steady rhythm on offense. However, they also showed some glimpses of their enormous potential to be one of the top teams in the area for the season. But just when one would think that the game was about to break wide open, Leslie would pop a couple of three-point shots at opportune moments and hang around just enough to be a pest to the Warriors. In fact, sophomore Ayden Rutan of Leslie led all scorers with 20 points. Rutan was good for six three-point baskets during the game, including four in the fourth quarter to keep the game close enough to be interesting in the final moments.
Still, one never got the impression that Grass Lake was in danger of surrendering the lead. They took a 14-11 edge after the first quarter and expanded it to 9 points at halftime 34-25 thanks to a late scoring burst. The Warriors then built the lead to 14 points early in the third, taking advantage of a Leslie scoring drought that lasted for nearly five minutes to open the second half. But then Grass Lake went on a scoreless streak of their own for the rest of the third quarter as their lead fell to eight points at 39-31.
Grass Lake could not rely on senior leadership to steady themselves as there are no seniors on the team. But this group of juniors and sophomores have had plenty of experience playing together over the last several years thanks to the Junior Warrior program spearheaded by former varsity coach Joel Cook, who left Grass Lake after the last school year to become the principal at East Jackson High, and current Junior Varsity coach Dave Bargesser. One wishes there was a crystal ball available so as to peek as to how good this team can be this season and next season one as well. But then again, that would spoil the fun and ruin what should be a wild and entertaining ride. This opportunity for Grass Lake to achieve success in boys basketball is one that has not been available for decades at a school well known for its football tradition and three state titles in baseball. But the beauty of small town high school basketball is to witness first hand the talent and development of a group of young men from grade school to high school. The opportunity for conference success and beyond is one that has been in the making for ten years. And the residents of this two-stoplight town would be well served to trade in the gridiron for the hardwood and enjoy what promises to be a captivating season as Grass Lake strives for its first conference title in basketball since 1971.
(written by Jason Foster)