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Grand Rapids Union opens up conference play with an important 50-45 victory over Zeeland East

By: Jeff Chaney, January 8, 2016, 10:37 pm

Grand Rapids – The Grand Rapids Union boys basketball team came out early and set the tone in a key O-K Conference Black Division opener with visiting Zeeland East on Friday.

Thanks to high energy, especially on the defensive end, the Red Hawks raced out to a 14-point lead after the first quarter.

It was a lead Union would need as the Chix continued to chip away at the Red Hawks advantage. But in the end they could never totally catch up as Union won, 50-45.

"In that first quarter, we were riding off the high energy of the crowd," said Union coach Brandoen Guyton, whose team improves to 5-1 overall. "Then they switched up and played zone (defense) on us, and every team plays a zone against us. Then we started playing like we’ve never seen a zone before."

After leading 16-2 after eight minutes, the Red Hawks only scored two points in the second quarter, including a stretch of seven straight minutes to finish the quarter where they never scored at all.

"We have a guard sitting out right now, and we didn’t attack the zone like we should, we were stationary with the ball," Guyton said. "But at the half we made some adjustments."

One of those adjustments was to get the ball to senior guard Sergio Diaz, who was a big spark offensively in the third quarter, scoring 12 of his game-high 25 points in the quarter, including three 3-pointers.

"We set screens better, and moved without the ball and that set everything up," Guyton said. "Diaz got hot, and that kind of helped us."

Zeeland East coach Mike Fenlon was happy with how his team didn’t give up after a horrible first quarter, but knows his team must be ready to play at the jump ball, especially in the tough OK Black.

"It is tough to come back, but we did battle back," said Fenlon, whose team fell to 5-4. "On Tuesday we played Holland and put up 50 in the first half, and we talked about being mentally prepared tonight, and we needed to come out and compete. We knew they were going to be physical, and I don’t think we were mentally ready to go. They had a great game plan, and were ready to go."

The battling back for the Chix began in the second quarter, when they outscored Union 12-2. In that second quarter, junior guard Sam Tilden scored eight of his team-high 15 points.

But Diaz proved to be the Chix undoing, as Union pushed the lead back up to 38-24 heading into the fourth quarter.

"We knew they were going to come after us and be fast, and we weren’t ready at that start," Fenlon said. "We know Diaz is a player. We talked about him for two days, and he proved that in the third quarter."