By Randy Gregory, Michigan Sports Radio

Photo courtesy of Miles Postema


After a disappointing loss at home to East Kentwood the previous Friday that brought the Falcons to within a game of Rockford, the Rams rebounded in style with a pair of impressive wins to close out the regular season as the sole champion of the OK Red. The week began at home on Tuesday, February 20 with a 64-40 triumph over West Ottawa. Rockford entered play on Friday, February 25 where a loss to Jenison and an East Kentwood victory could have left them tied for the title. But the Rams erased all doubt as to who would win the conference crown with a 66-44 win. Those results left the Rams with an OK Red record of 13-1 and an overall mark of 18-4. That record included the Rams running off wins in 17 of their last 18 contests after beginning the season at 2-3.


“We came out early against West Ottawa determined to grab control of the game defensively,” said Rockford Coach Kyle Clough. “We did exactly that and played with discipline on both ends of the court and really carried the play from the start of the game. We knew we were playing for at least a share of the league title and they played with great poise from the beginning.”


It was about as balanced an attack as you would ever want to see for the Rams. Seniors Andrew Landis and Drake Irwin led the Rams with 12 points apiece. Sophomore Jake Bascom and junior Lucas Pitsch both added 11 and junior Isaac Poot chipped in with 8. Irwin and Bascom led the Ram rebounders with 8 and 6 respectively while Poot had three assists. The only sour point of the evening was an ankle injury to Landis that forced him to miss the Jenison contest on Friday.


Rockford jumped out to a huge, early lead against Jenison on Friday. That lead grew to 34-17 at the break and the Rams never looked back on their way to the 66-44 win. Irwin and Bascom led the scoring attack with 17 and 11 points respectively. In addition, Dylan Gross, Pitsch and Poot all tossed in nine of their own. Irwin and Bascom again controlled the glass with 9 and 8 rebounds respectively.


“We knew coming into the game that our roles would be re-defined with Andrew (Landis) out,” said Clough. “Once again we took control early on the defensive end and were able to build a pretty substantial lead. Drake (Irwin) really imposed his will inside early and that enabled us to free up some shooters from outside to build the lead over the balance of the game. I though both Nick Varady and Ty Blystone had some very solid moments in the second half for us. One of the biggest strengths of our team is our depth and I think that showed tonight with us being short-handed.”


The Rams will now begin state tourney play this week at Forest Hills Northern. They drew a bye on Monday as one of the top two seeds. But they have a formidable slate staring them in the face as they begin play on Wednesday, February 28. Their first opponent will be the winner of the Coopersville versus Kenowa Hills game. Coopersville is the prohibitive favorite at 19-3 and the undisputed winners of the OK Blue. Should they emerge victorious, they are looking at a powerful unit from Northview that features no fewer than three Division 1 recruits. Should they win their first game on Wednesday the championship tilt will be Friday, March 1. Wednesday’s tip is slated for 7:30 P.M. and Fridays championship tip is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.


“Coopersville has an outstanding team and presents a very difficult zone challenge defensively,” said Clough. “If we play them, we will need to be on the top of our own game. They are a difficult challenge and I believe they have only trailed in three games all year. So we will look to get out to a solid start and capitalize on the things we do well.