FLINT, Michigan — The best guards won.
No. 2-ranked Mott Community College, the “Guard U” of the junior college ranks, started the season in impressive fashion Friday night, lighting up Grand Rapids, 87-68.
The two teams sparred with mostly whiffs for the first five minutes of the game, but it wouldn’t last. Mott, led by sophomore guard Malik Albert, went back to the old playbook — using defense to spark their transition offense. Albert, who led all scorers with 21 points, was aggressive going to the basket and drawing fouls. He hit 10-for-10 from the line, complementing an amazing 24-for-28 performance as a team from the charity stripe.
The Bears (1-0) led by 14 at the break and by as many as 25 midway through the second half after a barrage of 3-pointers from Albert and freshman guard Marcus Johnson. The Bears shot 39 percent from 3-point range as a team, hitting on nine of 23 attempts.
Grand rapid whittled Mott’s lead down to 13, but the Raiders couldn’t get any closer. Grand Rapids (0-1) was paced by Courtney Hill’s 19 points. Willie Dukes added 10.
Johnson set aside the early-game jitters and finished strong in his first game as a Bear. He scored 19 points with three rebounds and an assist. Sophomore Myles Busby led the team with 11 rebounds and three steals. Albert added five rebounds and five assists to his 21 points. Sophomore Chester McFadden added 12 points and five rebounds.
Probably no one outside the program expected to see these five guys starting on opening night: Albert, Johnson, Busby McFadden and Matt Romano. The latter is a local product (Flint Kearsley), a 6-4 freshman forward who played 22 minutes in his first game.
Mott returns to action next Saturday at 3 p.m. on the road against Sinclair CC in Dayton, Ohio.