GVSU edges Kentucky Wesleyan in final minute

GVL / Robert Mathews
Senior Rob Woodson

GVL / Robert Mathews Senior Rob Woodson

Jay Bushen

Senior point guard Rob Woodson decided to put the fate of the game in his hands when his team trailed by one point with less than 30 seconds to play.

Woodson raced down the court and hit a contested right-handed layup that put the Grand Valley State University men’s basketball team up for good in a 61-58 comeback victory over Kentucky Wesleyan College on Saturday afternoon.

“We had to get one,” he said. “We had to get a bucket right there, so when I saw the opportunity, I had to take it.”

GVSU (2-0) found a way to hold on despite playing from behind for the majority of the game.

KWC seemed to answer every time the Lakers made a play, but junior guard Ryan Sabin refused to let the Panthers run away with it.

Sabin connected on seven of 12 from beyond the arc and finished with a game-high 23 points to go with five rebounds and three steals.

“I’m really proud of him,” head coach Ric Wesley said. “At the same time, that’s our expectation. We think he’s one of the top players in the conference, and we need him to be at his best when we play in these (close) games. I liked how aggressive he was.”

KWC (1-4) dropped its fourth-straight contest but recently had a 57-point performance from senior guard Lonnie Hayes in a 88-89 loss to Lake Erie College on Nov. 9.

The Lakers were well aware before the game.

Hayes finished with 11 points, three assists and three rebounds but turned the ball over four times.

“He’s a great player,” Wesley said. “He can bully it into the basket area, and he’s a pretty good shooter. He’s a very difficult matchup, and we knew we had to try to keep our defense pretty tight. It paid off for us late because he tried to drive a couple of times and we closed off the lane area.”

Both teams were a bit sloppy early in the first, but KWC ended up taking a 38-28 lead going into the locker rooms after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from sophomore guard Lucas Barker.

The Panthers held a 15-3 advantage in second-chance points at the break, as senior center Dominique Dawson, who had played two seasons at the University of Minnesota, had 10 points and seven offensive rebounds.

Dawson finished with 12 points and eight boards.

“I’m really proud of our guys. They battled back,” Wesley said. “It didn’t look good at halftime; they had controlled the game, and their big guy was really controlling the paint. We did a better job of blocking him out in the second half and were able to finish plays defensively. That was huge.”

GVSU sophomore forward Ricky Carbajal crashed the boards on offense and had some clutch tip-ins before finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds.

Carbajal and Sabin combined to make up for more than 63 percent of the Laker point total.

“He was aggressive; that’s his game,” Sabin said. “He takes what’s there, and he doesn’t force things. He’s got a unique game, but he’s very effective.”

Sophomore guard Darren Kapustka also made some key plays that helped GVSU mount the comeback.

Kapustka finished with eight points and six assists, and he hit the final free throws that made it a three-point contest with just four seconds left to play.

“That was a big-time game for us,” Wesley said. “It’s hard to battle back, grind it out and stay focused for that long. We showed some real character and determination just hanging in there. We kept coming.”

GVSU will travel to take on Cedarville University on Saturday at 4 p.m.

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