by Eva Dean Folkert
Perhaps no play epitomized Saturday's Tyler George-Preston Granger Show more than when George fed a nifty assist under the basket to Granger who scored an easy layup with 6:18 to go in the first half of Hope's men's basketball game versus Adrian College.
Not only did those two Flying Dutchmen team up beautifully on that play, they also scored 35 of Hope's 44 first-half points — sophomore guard George, pictured right, with 18 and junior center Granger, pictured left, with 17 — with each missing just one shot a piece.
When the final buzzer sounded 20 minutes later at DeVos Fieldhouse, George of Grand Rapids (Forest Hills Central HS) had scored a career-high 28 points while Granger of Lansing (Lansing Christian HS) tallied his second double-double in-a-row with 23 points and 10 rebounds as Hope defeated Adrian, 87-63.
The win snapped Hope's two-game losing streak, lifting its record to 2-2 in the MIAA and 9-6 overall. Adrian is now 1-3 in the league and 7-8 overall.
"It was a collective effort," said head coach Greg Mitchell. "I think after Wednesday (losing at Calvin) when we struggled, and it wasn't a great performance by us, you always wonder how a team is going to come back. I always say how I love this team and how cohesive they are, but it's got to payoff. The only way you get that (payoff) is by busting your butt on Wednesdays and Saturdays and get to feel like this. We're not dead yet."
The Flying Dutchmen never trailed in Saturday's contest and led 11-0 after two-and-a-half minutes of play. Granger and George did their dominating duo thing to build Hope's lead to as many of 17 points in the first half that ended with the Flying Dutchmen leading, 44-28.
"Once Ty hit one, (his baskets) just kind of kept coming," Mitchell said. "I thought Preston's first half was as good of a first half as he's played in a long time. Today's win was exactly what we needed. . . Really pleased with the 40-minute effort except maybe two minutes to start the second half."
Actually, it was a three-and-a-half-minute exception when Adrian outscored Hope, 11-2. The Bulldogs cut the Flying Dutchmen lead to seven points, 46-39, at the 16:39 mark. Mitchell quickly called a timeout.
"We're kind of quiet and on our heels," he said. "We weren't approaching the ball on the help side at all. So we just challenged each other (during the timeout). We gotta play harder and be louder... Eventually we found our mojo. And that's a testament to the guys who were on the floor showing a lot of maturity because that could have gotten interesting very, very easily."
Adrian would not regain any momentum after that. Freshman guard Evan Thomas of Okemos (Okemos HS) found his mojo especially and scored all 10 of his points in the time remaining. "Evan started slowly but when we really needed the push after they made that run, he was the difference in the second half," Mitchell said.
Hope defense also kept the MIAA's second-leading scorer, Jordan Harris, in extreme lockdown. Harris is averaging 24.4 points per game. On Saturday, he scored just one point.
Adrian was led by Jeremy Kalonji with 18.
For George, a team captain who also had a team-high five assists in the game, the unleashing of his scoring potential came down to a matter of trust. "(Coach Mitchell) puts his trust in me and the rest of the guys put a lot of trust in me," he said. "I just got to flip that switch and be aggressive the whole game, not just one half or a couple of minutes."
Hope shot 50% from the field to Adrian's 37.9%. The Flying Dutchmen were also +18 on the boards, grabbing 39 rebounds to the Bulldogs' 21.
"I would say Evan and Ty played a heck of a game, knocking shots down," captain Granger added. "But I would say we have four guys who could do that on any given night. So, it was good to get Ty going and next game we will get someone else going, and when we finally get everyone playing well together, we'll be dangerous."
Hope hits the road for its next game at Kalamazoo College. Tipoff is at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 22.