GRAND RAPIDS — It might be the smallest of the local small-college men’s basketball rivalries, but the competition level between Grace Bible College and Kuyper College is no less intense.
The two small Christian schools, located just a few miles apart, engaged in a spirited battle Tuesday night at the Boonstra Fitness Center on the Kuyper College campus. It featured the host Cougars threatening to knock off the No. 1 team in the National Christian College Athletic Association Division II national rankings.
The threat of an upset, however, passed in the second half.
The two-time defending NCCAA national champion Tigers rallied from a four-point halftime deficit to pull away for a 99-76 victory in front of a standing-room-only crowd of about 500.
It extended their NCCAA-record winning streak to 51 consecutive games.
“It is becoming a good rivalry,” Grace coach Gary Bailey said. “The last time we lost an NCCAA game was to Kuyper right here in their inaugural game as a program. The rivalry just keeps getting better.”
Grace Bible, ranked No. 1 since January 2009, improved to 17-7.
Senior forward Allen Durham (Wyoming Park) led the Tigers with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Cory Jamieson (Wayland) had 19 points, Dan Dame (Wayland) had 11, John Oostema (Grand Rapids Christian) had 10 and Ryan Krombeen (Calvin Christian) finished with eight.
“Every time we play them, they get a little better,” Durham said of the budding rivalry. “No matter what the records say, when we play Kuyper we have to give it our best. They make us play that much harder.”
Kuyper (2-18) seemed in control right up until halftime.
The Cougars, whose roster includes just one senior and two juniors, increased their lead to seven points late in the first half. The team also played without its leading scorer, sophomore co-captain Terence Billups, who has been ruled academically ineligible and will miss the remainder of the season.
“We’ve been trying to get this going,” Kuyper coach Stan Jesky said. “Gary and I are both friends. We’re trying to do everything we can to promote the camaraderie between between the schools. The kids all know each other. The atmosphere for these games is just great. I think it’s becoming a good rivalry.”
Kuyper guard Alex Rogers (Comstock Park) agreed.
The sophomore transfer from Albion scored a game-high 22 points and contributed six rebounds and five assists.
“It’s becoming a bigger rivalry this year,” he said. “We were up tonight on the No. 1-ranked team at the half. That’s the best. If we model ourselves after some of the big teams like Grace, we can do something in the national tournament.”
Brock Orlowski (Byron Center) had 18 points, while Justin Christensen (Grandville) and Montay Lee (Ottawa Hills) added 14 apiece.
Earlier in the evening, the Grace Bible women’s team defeated Kuyper 80-69.
Liz Nelson (Grandville) led the Tigers with 20 points and four steals. Jessica Sikorski (Wyoming Park) had 18 points, 13 rebounds and five steals, Alex Rios (East Kentwood) had 16 points and Kerie Rudd added 12 points.
Emily Wittenbach scored a game-high 23 points to lead the Cougars. Caitlyn Ouwinga contributed 11 points and eight rebounds, while D.B. Craig and Rachel Grochowalski (Grand Rapids) added 10 points each.
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