By Randy Gregory
The Rockford basketball team has long prided themselves on the defensive side of the court. Whether it has been Steve Majerle or Nick Allen patrolling the sidelines, the Rams have always found a way to stay in games even when their outside shooting has been on the cool side. The Rams journeyed to Holland on Friday, February 1st and carried on that tradition in posting a 45-33 triumph over West Ottawa. The victory left the Rams at 4-1 (10-4 overall) in the OK Red and still tied atop the conference with East Kentwood. Hudsonville was stunned by Grand Haven and fell out of a tie with the other two teams.
“This has always been a difficult place for us to play,” said Rockford coach Nick Allen. “We are hopefully starting to come together as a team and find our roles. This team has a lot of pride and they are playing for something and showed it today. West Ottawa is a very talented and well-coached team. Every night is a battle in the OK Red and tonight was no exception. For us to play as well as we did here shows the focus these kids are playing with right now.”
West Ottawa grabbed an early lead in the game that didn’t even last until the six-minute mark. The Rams charged ahead and eventually led 15-10 after the first quarter. The second stanza featured a full eight minutes of suffocating Rockford defense that ended up with the Rams holding a 24-13 lead and seemingly firmly in control.
West Ottawa refused to go meekly and whittled two points off of that lead to make it a 32-23 contest after three quarters. An early fourth-quarter triple from the Panthers made it a 32-26 game and elicited an excited reaction from the brave Panther fans who dared to venture out on a brutal weather night. But the Rams ran off a nine-point run of their own over the next six minutes to make it 41-26 and erase all suspense as to the eventual outcome. Chad Carlson punctuated the run with a three-pointer that was his final points of the night for a team-leading ten-point effort.
No other Ram made it into double figures, but Chase Fairchild and Casey Watters added nine points each.
Rockford returns home this week for a pair of conference clashes. The Rams will first host Hudsonville on Tuesday, February 5th (too late for press) before welcoming in Grand Haven on Friday, February 8th.