by RANDY GREGORY
Knowing they had put themselves in a precarious situation after a pair of heart-rending losses at home last week, the boy’s basketball team from Rockford knew Friday’s tilt at East Kentwood was a must win game. It was a desperate Rockford team that did just enough in the end to pull out the 44-40 victory and allowed them to still maintain a glimmer of hope for a share of the crown. The Rams record in the OK Red now stands at 5-3 (12-6 overall) and they find themselves one game behind both East Kentwood and Hudsonville with two games left in the league season for all three teams.
The Rams need to sweep their contests at Grandville on Tuesday, February 19th (too late for press) and at home against West Ottawa on Friday, February 22nd and hope for at least one of the two co-leaders to drop their Tuesday game before they meet each other in the season finale on Friday. On paper it seems unlikely, but that was the same thought going into last year’s season-ender when the Rams procured a share of the title.
“East Kentwood is a very good team and it was a team win in every respect today,” said Rockford coach Nick Allen. “We had to have this game in order to give ourselves a chance in the OK Red and we did exactly what we needed to do to come out on top.”
Casey Watters was the hero in crunch time for Rockford as he scored the team’s final eight points to put the Rams on top and enable them to stay there.
The game itself was a defensive struggle from start to finish with the Falcons ending the opening quarter holding a 6-5 lead. The second quarter was more of the same with the only difference being the Rams holding a one-point lead (15-14) when the two teams headed to the locker room to plot their second half strategy.
The defensive intensity from both teams never waned when they came out for the final 16 minutes and the differential barely budged. But a late three-pointer from Nate Woznick gave the Rams a 27-25 lead after three quarters and set the stage for a frantic finish.
The lead first went one way and then the other as there were no fewer than a dozen ties or lead changes over the final quarter. With just over two minutes remaining a Watters basket put the Rams on top for good. The Falcons had multiple chances to tie the game or go ahead but the Ram defense forged a considerable wall that prevented them from capitalizing on their chances and preserved the crucial win for Rockford.
“It was nice to see Casey (Watters) rise to the occasion when the team needed him,” said Allen. “He had some big hoops there at the end and his play was pivotal. It was nice to see him experience some success and help us get this much needed win.”
Chad Carlson and Watters were the only two players in double figures for Rockford with 14 and 10 points respectively.