GRAND RAPIDS — By looking at Greenville senior Chris Mickey, you couldn’t tell his team had blown a double-digit lead, battled back from three down with less than a minute to go and hit free throw after free throw to win in overtime.
Mickey scored 13 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter and overtime as the Yellow Jackets defeated the East Grand Rapids Pioneers 79-76 to remain perfect on the season.
“There is a little nerve, but over the years I’ve learned to hold it and try to stay as calm as possible,” Mickey said. “That’s what you have to do. In pressure situations, if you’re not calm, you’re not going to execute and do things to the best of you’re ability.”
The Yellow Jackets (13-0, 6-0) led for most of the night including by 11 points late in the second quarter. Outside of a 48-47 deficit with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter the Yellow Jackets held the lead until late in the game.
Greenville took a 64-58 advantage after two Mickey free throws with 3:44 left in the game. The Pioneers (3-9, 2-4) changed the tide of the game with a 9-0 run to lead 67-64 with 1:22 remaining.
“I’ve been saying through games there will be adversity,” Greenville coach Mark Haist said. “Any season you’re going to have adversity. It’s how you react to adversity. I thought for a few minutes we panicked, but we hit a few free throws and put the pressure back on them.
“I’m really proud of how our kids reacted at the end of that game,” he added.
After a missed free throw by both teams, Mickey hit another pair of free throws to pull Greenville within one at 67-66. Austin Somerfield stole the ensuing inbound pass and made a layup only to have the referee call a charge giving the ball back to East Grand Rapids.
Greenville then fouled DeAndre Grady who hit one of two free throws for a 68-66 lead.
After a timeout, the Yellow Jackets had the ball with 27 seconds left. The inbounds pass went to Greg Krusniak along the baseline. East tried to double team Krusniak who found a wide open Mickey for a game tying layup with 15 seconds left to force overtime.
“The O-K White is a tough basketball conference. We are not going to run away with every game,” Haist said.
In overtime, with East up by one point, Mickey drained a three-pointer from the top to give the Yellow Jackets the a 71-69 lead. Greenville would not trail again.
The Yellow Jackets finished by making 8-of-10 free throws to seal the win.
“It was the biggest game of the year so far,” Mickey said. “I don’t think we’ve beaten East at East in quite some time and haven’t swept the season series ever. This is a big momentum shift for us.”
For the game Greenville went 29-of-36 from the free throw line.
“Both teams shot well from the free throw line,” Haist said. “I have no explanation. We shoot some free throws here and there at practice. I’ve taken focus away from pressuring them on free throws and try to let them go up there and be calm.”
Greenville defeated East on Dec. 12 at home 65-48. This game was nowhere near as easy.
“They shot a lot better. Not just Marcus Hall, but others,” Mickey said. “We turned the ball over more than we wanted to.”
Grady led four Pioneers in double-digits with 23 points. Matt Alt had 16 points while Austin Howell and Marcus Hall each had 12 points.
Somerfield had a team-high 21 points. Aaron Crebessa hit four three-pointers and some crucial free throws to finish with 17 points.
Mickey said this is a win that will pull his team even closer together.
“We have chemistry as it is. We enjoy being around each other,” Mickey said. “This win is going to pull us a lot closer as a unit.”
The Yellow Jackets travel to face GR Creston on Friday. They begin a four-game home stand with Muskegon Reeths-Puffer on Tuesday.
Greenville 20 20 12 16 11 — 79
EGR 17 16 18 17 8 — 76
GREENVILLE (13-0) — Davis 4 0-2 9, Heppe 1 0-1 2, Crebessa 5 3-4 17, Somerfield 6 9-10 21, Boehm 1 2-2 4, Mickey 4 10-10 19, Krusniak 1 5-7 7. Totals: 23 29-36 79. Three-point goals: Crebessa 4, Davis, Mickey. Fouled out: Davis.
EGR (3-9) — Alt 4 5-6 16, Grady 8 5-8 23, D. Brown 3 0-0 8, C. Singleton 1 1-1 3, Howell 5 2-4 12, Hall 4 4-4 12, J. Brown 1 0-0 2. Totals: 26 17-23 76. Three-point goals: Alt 3, Grady 2 D. Brown 2. Fouled out: None.