No.1-ranked Mott Community College (1-0) did something on Saturday night in the home opener that I’ve never seen at the JUCO level: every player on the Bears’ roster played in the first half en route to a 79-76 win over no. 19-ranked Grand Rapids.
Of course I’ve seen coaches play the whole roster on many occasions; I’ve certainly seen Coach Schmidt do it several times. I’ve never, however, seen a coach use every player in a tight game versus a ranked team. Grand Rapids is actually better than its ranking; I’m fairly certain they are the second-best team in the state. Further, every player, save for one, scored in this game. It’s staggering depth at the JUCO level, where the end of the bench is typically reserved for players who have no business playing at any level.
Mott actually trailed in the first half after a barrage of 3-pointers from sophomore Tyler Krim, who led the Raiders with 17 points. Grand Rapids led by 11 at the half and looked poised to hand Mott its first home loss in three years.
Mott didn’t seem to sweat it. The Bears started the second half on a 10-0 run and led by as many as seven in the half. Sophomore forward Fred Mattison and freshman guard Devin Foster led the comeback finishing with 20 and 14 points, respectively. Foster made the biggest shot of the game, a mid-range jumper with less than 90 seconds to go to give Mott its 3-point edge.
Grand Rapids’ freshman point guard, Kevin Badger, scored 13 points in the game, played big minutes, but got all he could handle from Mott’s point guard Ahasuerus McDonald. He’s the Bears’ best on-the-ball defender and played tireless defense against Badger, a similar player in nearly every regard.
Mott’s big man, 6-foot-9 freshman Coreante DeBerry, will need a little more time to get comfortable in his role at Mott. He has to get quicker feet defensively and take better advantage of his size. Even so, he came off the bench to score eight points and helped foul out Grand Rapids’ best post, 6-7 sophomore Alex Mustert.
This game gave fans an idea of how Mott will win the majority of games this season: attrition. Schmidt threw waves of players at GRCC tonight, wore them down defensively, and held on in spite of some poor foul shooting late. This team could scarcely be any more different than the 35-1 national championship team from last season. There’s not a John Taylor on the roster, of course, but this year’s squad is much (much, much) deeper.
Mott will be back in action next Saturday at 3 p.m. against Sinclair (Ohio) at the Steve Schmidt Gymnasium. As a general rule, getting to Mott early for games is a good idea. Tonight there was standing room only at Ballenger.