By Randy Gregory
It wasn’t pretty from an aesthetic point of view, but it was attractive in its’ end result. Rockford jumped out to a 43-26 halftime lead over Grandville and eventually built it to 53-31 en route to a 69-51 victory over the Bulldogs on Tuesday, January 29th at Rockford. Even better news came out of the Hudsonville and East Kentwood contest when the Eagles stopped the Falcons 65-64 to push the Rams into a three-way tie atop the OK Red standings at 3-1 (9-4 overall).
“It wasn’t a thing of beauty tonight, but whenever you get a win by double digits in the OK Red it is a good win,” said Rockford coach Nick Allen. “Grandville isn’t a bad team, but I think we got a little bit complacent for a while when we got out to the big lead. It also didn’t help that there were so many stoppages for fouls that disrupted the flow of the game. But we aren’t big on excuses and we have to learn to adapt no matter what the situation is.”
Chase Fairchild continued his recent spate of scoring by knocking home a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter to key a 15-8 Rockford lead after the opening eight minutes. The second quarter began what became the most glaring facet of the balance of the contest. Rockford went to the free throw line a staggering 20 times in just the second quarter! The Rams nailed 16 of them to help pad the lead to 43-26.
Rockford went to the line 43 times and converted 33 of them. Grandville got 22 attempts of their own as well. There was a grand total of 52 fouls called in the game and four different Bulldogs fouled out of the contest in a testament to the physical nature of the way they play. Robert Holmes achieved the extremely rare feat of reaching double figures for the Rams without netting a single basket instead he trooped to the foul line 17 times and nailed 13 of them. He also added ten rebounds for good measure,
“Robert (Holmes) has consistently set the tone for the team this year with his effort inside despite giving up a lot of size,” said Allen. “He is one of the leaders of our team and is always giving everything he has to help our team.”
The final 12 minutes saw the quality of play suffer for Rockford as they committed several unforced turnovers and made some uncharacteristic miscues to allow Grandville to make a late push and get within ten points with three minutes remaining (59-49). But the Rams righted the ship in time to not only hold the lead but enlarge it to the final 18-point margin.
The extreme foul situation was in stark contrast to the way several contests were officiated earlier this season for Rockford. Those games featured exceptionally physical play where seemingly the only action that merited a foul was the appearance of blood. But Allen said that had little to do with the ragged nature of play late in the game.
“I thought the game was called consistently from the beginning,” said Allen. “No two sets of officials will call a game the same way and we just have to learn to adjust to the way they are calling it.”
Fairchild led Rockford with 19 points and was joined in double figures by Holmes and Casey Watters with 10, including a perfect 7 for 7 from the foul line. Nathan Helms had a solid game as well in a starting role with nine points.