Grand Haven senior forward Nic Stump was, well, stumped by the question.
“I know we play Rockford again coming up, but honestly, I don’t know exactly when it is – but I know it’s coming up soon,” said Stump, referring to Grand Haven’s highly-anticipated rematch with Rockford, which handed Haven its only loss of the season back on Jan. 18.
That answer was music to the ears of seventh-year Grand Haven coach Greg Immink, who knows his team still needs to get past Caledonia in order to make the Rockford rematch (which is Feb. 15 at Rockford, by the way) an opportunity to move to the top of the Ottawa-Kent Conference Red standings.
Grand Haven, which improved to 13-1 overall and 8-1 in the conference with Tuesday’s 63-42 home win over Holland West Ottawa, has the town buzzing – and the student section and pep band are having a blast just like in the glory days of Buccaneers basketball.
Haven’s rematch with Rockford is just one of the upcoming games those rabid fans are excited about – along with a chance to repeat as a Division 1 District champ next month.
The Bucs are certainly an experienced team, with four senior starters, led by the 6-foot-5 Stump, who scored a game-high 24 points in Friday’s 59-46 win over Hudsonville.
“We have been playing together for so long, and we still don’t know who is going to be the leading scorer every game,” explained Stump, an honorable mention Associated Press all-state selection last winter. “We just try to keep moving the ball and if someone gets hot, we’ll find him and go to him.”
Stump was that man Friday, posting up and scoring down low, finishing up on the break and displaying a rapidly-improving, mid-range jump shot.
While Stump doesn’t lead the Bucs in any one stat, he entered this week ranked second in five of the six major statistical categories – scoring (13.0), rebounding (5.4), shooting percentage (48.8 percent), steals (1.3) and blocked shots (1.1).
“In the last three or four games, Nic has raised his game to a higher level,” said Immink, who is assisted by Ron Peters and Lance Johnson. “I’m excited about that because when he’s playing well, it opens everything up for the rest of the team.”
Bashir Neely, an athletic 6-2 senior, uses his speed to break down defenses and is the leading scorer at 16.5 points per game. He is joined in the backcourt by 6-5 junior Harrison Sorrelle, the only non-senior starter, who averages 11.1 points and 2.6 assists. Sorrelle, like Stump, was an honorable mention all-state choice last year as a sophomore.
Joining Stump on the front line are 6-6 senior center Tucker Kooi, who averages 7.2 points and leads the team in rebounding (5.7) and blocked shots (1.7), and 6-4 senior forward Owen Worthington (7.3 points), who is an outstanding 3-point shooter and defender.
Stump said the fact that most of the team has been playing together since their elementary Bucs Youth Basketball days is a huge advantage – especially in close games. One player he has been playing with even longer than that is his younger brother Nate Stump, a 6-3 junior and one of the first players off the bench every game.
“I love having this chance to play with him,” said Nic Stump. “We are typical brothers and we fight and get on each other’s nerves and all of that, but it’s mostly just brotherly love. We help each other out all the time with shooting form and rebounding and things like that.”
Nate Stump averages 2.5 points in limited minutes but has given the team a huge boost with his rebounding, currently third on the team at 4.6 per game.
Grand Haven’s basketball tradition dates to the 1920s and legendary coach Gus Cohrs, who guided the Buccaneers to a staggering six MHSAA state championships over a nine-year period from 1927 to 1935.
That basketball passion was reignited by Al Schaffer, who guided Haven to 231 wins during his 18 years in the 1970s and 1980s. Craig Taylor then steered the Bucs to back-to-back Quarterfinal appearances in 1991 and 1992, but it would be another 18 years before they would make a run that deep again, in 2010 under Steve Hewitt.
Hewitt died tragically during the summer of 2014, and after Bob Eidson took the reins for one year, Immink has guided the Bucs the past seven.
For the first four years of Immink’s tenure, Haven’s postseasons ended at the hands of powerhouse Muskegon in the District Finals. In 2020, the two teams were again scheduled to play in a District Final, but the COVID pandemic wiped out the season the day before that game. Then last winter, Haven broke through and downed the Big Reds, 66-51, snapping Muskegon’s run of 16 straight District titles.
The two teams are on a collision course once again as Muskegon was undefeated before suffering its first loss Saturday against Ferndale.
Muskegon is known for its speed, athletic ability and lockdown defense, while Haven counters with its shooting, experience and length. Neely is the Bucs’ only starter under 6-4.
“Our guys believe in our system, and we’re excited for a lot of big games coming up,” said Immink. “The challenge for us is to play consistently at a high level and for them to go beyond what they think they can do.”
Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Grand Haven’t Nik Stump attempts a free throw during Tuesday’s win over Holland West Ottawa. (Middle) Stump and his teammates get a breather during a break in the 63-42 victory. (Photos by JWaltVisuals.)
We've got a long way to go before the stories of this season conclude with four MHSAA boys basketball champions crowned March 15 at Michigan State University's Breslin Center.
But the first week of the 2023-24 regular season gave us plenty to fill our first installment of “Breslin Bound” – our official tip-off to following more than 700 boys basketball teams through those final buzzers in East Lansing.
Week in Review
The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:
1. Flint Carman-Ainsworth 46, Flint Beecher 44 This was their first meeting since January 2022 and it provided a memorable start as the Cavaliers downed the reigning Division 3 champion.
2. Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice 75, Ferndale 66 These two both have several new contributors, but big things will be expected again as well as Brother Rice regularly contends in Division 1 and Ferndale is the reigning Division 2 champion.
3. Lansing Waverly 58, Detroit Martin Luther King 57 Waverly took major strides last season doubling its win total from 2021-22 and could be on the verge of more coming off this impressive victory at the Detroit Douglass Tip-Off Classic.
4. Norway 49, Munising 48 After the Knights gave Munising a tough final regular-season test last season, the Mustangs went on to claim the Division 4 championship. Norway will attempt to build off back-to-back 15-7 seasons starting with this win.
5. Wyoming Tri-unity Christian 64, Grandville Calvin Christian 44 These two combined to finish 46-9 a season ago, when Calvin defeated Tri-unity 63-42 in the regular-season finale (although the Defenders rebounded to finish Division 4 runners-up).
With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:
Rochester Adams (2-0) The Highlanders provided one of the best late-breaking stories of last season, reaching the Division 1 Quarterfinals after finishing fourth of five teams in a strong Oakland Activities Association Red that also featured North Farmington and Ferndale. The momentum started rolling again with wins last week over Milford 52-48 and Macomb L’Anse Creuse North 74-59.
Utica (2-0) Last season’s co-champion in the Macomb Area Conference Blue defeated MAC White reigning champion Port Huron Northern 68-49 in their opener and then Utica Eisenhower 56-41 at the MAC Champions of Champions event at Center Line. Utica improved to 15-7 last season after finishing 7-14 in 2021-22.
Dundee (2-0) After holding its own last season in a strong Lenawee County Athletic Association and finishing 13-12 overall, Dundee is hoping to turn a fast start last week into a climb up the standings with league play starting Friday. The Vikings doubled up East Jackson 52-26 and downed Milan 67-37 to start things off.
Goodrich (1-0) A 22-5 finish last season included a shared championship in the Flint Metro League Stars and a run to the Division 2 Quarterfinals, where the Martians fell by only five to eventual champion Ferndale. The second-to-last of those five losses came to Flint Beecher, 70-55, but Goodrich avenged it Friday with a 58-55 win over the Bucs.
Hillsdale (2-0) The Hornets finished just 4-19 last season, their second sub-.500 in a row. But the turnaround may be starting. Hillsdale is halfway toward last year’s win total after defeating Union City 53-45 and Jonesville 50-40 – and after losing to Union City 52-36 and Jonesville 39-23 last season, with Jonesville going on to finish 19-6.
Royal Oak Shrine Catholic (2-0) This is another team well on its way to bettering last season’s success by Jan. 1. After going 3-19 last winter, Shrine defeated Bloomfield Hills Roeper 48-30 and Utica Ford 55-52 in overtime last week. Ford had defeated the Knights 63-50 last season, and the 55 points Shrine scored this time would have been their second-highest total of 2022-23.
Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-0) Lenawee Christian finished last season on an 11-5 run after a 2-7 start, and might be rolling that right into this season as well after opening with a 74-60 win over Blissfield and 73-58 overtime victory over Hanover-Horton. Blissfield was among teams to deal the Cougars a loss during last season’s tough early stretch. Lenawee Christian is playing in the Tri-County Conference this winter after playing previously as an independent.
Wakefield-Marenisco (2-0) The Cardinals were a solid 13-10 last season, with the final week including a third win over Bessemer as they faced off in a District Semifinal, followed by a third loss to Ironwood in the District championship game. This season’s first week saw the same schedule, but a better outcome – Wakefield-Marenisco edged Bessemer 60-57 and this time defeated Ironwood 48-30. Ironwood was first and W-M third last season in the Copper Mountain Conference Porcupine Mountain.
Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up:
Tuesday – River Rouge (1-0) at Ferndale (1-1) – As noted above, Ferndale was last season’s Division 2 champion, and defeated Rouge 72-60 in last winter’s meeting.
Friday – Kalamazoo Central (0-0) at Battle Creek Central (0-0) – These longtime rivals finished first and third, respectively, in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East last season.
Saturday – Detroit Cass Tech (0-0) at Holt (1-0) – The Rams host the reigning Division 1 champion Technicians in the 4:30 p.m. game of the Moneyball Classic.
Saturday – Grand Rapids South Christian (0-0) vs. Rockford (1-0) at Calvin University – This will be the 10 a.m. opener of The Invite at Calvin University, with the reigning Division 2 runner-up Sailors taking on a Rockford team coming off an 18-win season.
Saturday – Grand Rapids Catholic Central (0-0) vs. Grand Rapids Northview (1-0) at Calvin University – This will cap off The Invite tipping approximately 7:35 p.m. and pitting last season’s Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold co-champion and White outright champion, respectively.
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PHOTOS (Top) A Westland John Glenn player gets to the basket during U-D Jesuit's season-opening 83-48 win over the Rockets. (Middle) Bath defenders surround a Charyl Stockwell player during the Sentinels' 63-55 victory. (Top photo by Olivia B. Photography; middle photo by Click by Christine McCallister.)