It was a great week for the Cedar Springs Boys Varsity Basketball team, a week they really needed. It started out on Friday, February 12, with an easy 74-42 victory over the struggling Grand Rapids Central Rams. The outcome was never in doubt as Cedar jumped out to a 22-9 lead after one quarter and never looked back. All 13 Red Hawks saw plenty of action and 12 Red Hawks scored in the game. Senior Achrim Tillbrook, playing his first year of high school basketball, scored his first points of the year on a driving lay-up through the Central defense. Jason Gust and Seth Coxon each had 12 points and Ryan Harper chipped in 10.
Next up was the re-match with arch-rival Sparta, on February 16, at Cedar Springs High School. Sparta narrowly defeated Cedar earlier this season at Sparta, snapping a 16 game Red Hawk winning streak against the Spartans. The Red Hawks have not lost to Sparta at home since 1999 and didn’t want that streak to end. Sparta entered the game as the favorite with an impressive 11-4 record. Cedar Springs was 5-10. The game was close the entire first half with the lead changing hands 6 times. A 3-pointer by Seth Coxon late in the 2nd quarter gave Cedar a 23-19 halftime lead.
Cedar built a 9-point lead early in the 3rd on 7 straight points by Jason Gust. Sparta cut the lead to 5 at the end of 3 quarters. The Red Hawks clawed their way back to a 9-point lead with 4 minutes to go on a Ryan Dines lay-up, a Ryan Harper free throw, and 6 points by Seth Coxon. After a Sparta basket, Cedar held the ball for over a minute forcing Sparta to foul. Cedar failed to convert the free throw and Sparta rebounded and made a quick 3-pointer that cut the Red Hawk lead to 4 with 2:30 to go. After another missed free throw and a Red Hawk turnover, Sparta tied the game, but only for about 5 seconds. Cedar quickly broke the Spartan full court press, and Jason Gust fired a pass to Trey Reed for a wide-open lay-up to give Cedar the lead again with a minute to go. Sparta then turned the ball over and was forced to foul. The Red Hawks converted 6 of 8 free throws in the final minute to clinch the 55-51 victory.
Gust led all scorers with 26 points, Coxon had 10, Harper 7, Reed 6, Hank Porter, Branden Atkins and Dines had 2 each for the Red Hawks. Coach Secor was pleased with the victory. “It was a big win for our team, the thought of being swept by our rival was very motivating. Beating them 17 of the last 18 games is important to our program. Team defense was the key. Dines and Porter were very good guarding Plite (Sparta’s best player) and Gust made his free throws down the stretch.” Gust also made his 1000th point during the game.
On February 19, Cedar traveled to Coopersville to take on the Broncos. Eight first quarter points by Hank Porter led the Red Hawks to a 15-13 lead after one quarter. Cedar increased their lead to 35-22 at the half, on 11 second quarter points by sophomore Trey Reed and 7 points by Jason Gust.
Fifteen seconds into the 3rd quarter, Hank Porter hit a 3-pointer to give the Red Hawks a commanding 38-22 lead. Then the wheels came off for the Red Hawks. In an almost unbelievable turn of events, Coopersville outscored Cedar Springs 33-6 in the next 11 minutes and the Broncos went from being down by 16 points to being up by 11 (55-44) with 4:30 to go in the game. The Red Hawks were in trouble.
The Red Hawks quickly regrouped and went on a 7-0 run in the next 45 seconds to cut the Bronco lead to 4, then a 3-pointer by Coopersville gave them a 7-point lead with 3 minutes to go. Jason Gust answered with a quick 3 for Cedar to bring the Red Hawks within 4 again. Cedar’s defense then forced a Bronco turnover and Ryan Harper hit a jumper to make it a 2-point game. Then a huge Jason Gust steal led to a Ryan Harper lay-up to tie the game and send it in to overtime.
In overtime, the score was tied 60-60 with 1:25 to go and Seth Coxon hit a huge 3-pointer for the Red Hawks. Then Coxon stole the ball and the Broncos were forced to foul. Cedar converted on 5 of 6 free throws in the last minute to give the Red Hawks a 68-65 hard fought comeback victory.
“This was the biggest roller coaster of emotions in my 12 years of coaching,” said an emotionally drained Coach Secor. “We showed a lot of grit and character. Hank Porter and Trey Reed gave us a big lift offensively. After losing 5 games this season by 3 points or less, it was really good for us to win a couple close ones this week.”
Gust again led all scorers with 21 points, but had lots of help from his teammates. Hank Porter had 17 points and Trey Reed had 13. Ryan Harper narrowly missed a double-double with 9 points and 11 rebounds. Seth Coxon scored 4 points including the game winning 3-pointer. Two points each by Josh Hall and Tyler Baker rounded out the Red Hawk scoring.
The Red Hawks take on league leading Comstock Park at home in a Girls-Boys Varsity double-header on Friday, February 26.