Late-game struggles at East Grand Rapids moves boys varsity basketball to 5-2


Last winter, the trip to East Grand Rapids was certainly one to remember for the boys varsity basketball team. The Rangers of FHC left it all on the floor on the Pioneers’ Senior Night, allowed just 29 points, and walked out with a win by 25-plus.

But, on Tuesday night, Rangerball left much more to be desired on the defensive end. 

The bitter rivals butted heads all night long; yet, a couple of major buckets by EGR stole the late headlines. In the final minutes, a five-point Ranger lead quickly evaporated in a loud, hostile environment. Struggles to hit game-changing shots persisted, and FHC lost 44-40 in a tight one on the road. 

“Our execution late in the game was not as sound as it needed to be for us to find a way to win,” head coach Kyle Carhart said.

Coach Carhart’s number one concern heading into the matchup with East was more than likely containing Simon Neuhaus–a 6’5, physical wing presence that can score the basketball at will. In response, coach Carhart decided to play his best card defensively in senior captain Pierson VanGorp.

Pierson has risen to numerous defensive challenges during the young season, including noteworthy assignments of FHE’s Owen Hardy, Wyoming’s Ramere Draper, and Jamison Eklund of Pewamo-Westphalia. This season, Pierson has embraced his role as the team’s leading defender and has done so with purpose and ambition.

Neuhaus did much of the work for the Pioneers early on. At the conclusion of the first quarter, he had 15 of their 22 points. For the rest of the contest, FHC would blitz and pressure Simon on every touch he had. A 25-point night for the junior phenom marked an impressive showing, but also a defensive improvement for FHC in the second half.

The Rangers stood their ground in the second and third quarters; juniors Levi McKenzie and Jake Koning consistently made plays under pressure and lifted the boys to considerable success in this period. Levi notched 15 points on the night, while sophomore Jonas VanderWoude tallied seven. 

It was a tough night on the glass for the Rangers, as a plethora of fourth-quarter offensive rebounds provided EGR with crucial opportunities to reload and get second chances. 

Although the effort and heart were seemingly in the proper place for all 32 minutes, a number of defensive breakdowns and offensive shortcomings held FHC barely out of the winning column. 

“We made some mistakes on both ends of the floor that East was able to take advantage of,” coach Carhart reflected.

The 44-40 defeat marks Rangerball’s first conference loss of the year. The boys have an instant chance to redeem themselves by hosting the Forest Hills Northern Huskies at 6:00 PM on Friday, January 14.

“In the future, we need to do a better job of finishing plays in key moments to secure wins in tough environments,” coach Carhart said.