ALLENDALE – Varsity basketball comes with a ton of pressure, and every player who sees regular court time is going to face it, sooner or later.

For Reeths-Puffer sophomore Brayden Mitchelson, it came right away on Tuesday in his first varsity game.

His Rockets were battling Allendale in a tight season opener, and the contest went to overtime.

Mitchelson went to the free throw line twice in the final minute of the OT session with the outcome still very much in doubt.

Photo/Andrew Johnson

While he admitted he was nervous, Mitchelson buried his butterflies, focused and sank three out of four shots, giving the Rockets a thrilling 56-54 victory on the road.

“I had a lot of nerves, but I knew I had to knock them down to help the team pick up a victory,” Mitchelson said.

The Rockets had to deal with pressure all night against Allendale, with one big moment coming in the final seconds of regulation when Allendale attempted a shot that could have spelled defeat for R-P.

But the R-P defenders managed to partially block the shot, it missed the mark, and the game went to OT tied 48-48.

Photo/Andrew Johnson

Several Rockets came up big in the extra period, including Antrel Jones, who hit a two-point bucket, and Kyle Schlaff, who nailed a triple to give Reeths-Puffer a 53-48 lead.

That lead allowed Mitchelson to seal the victory with his three free throws a few minutes later.

“I always look at the front of the rim,” Schlaff said about the three-pointer. “I let it go and I just tried to knock it down. I was thrilled to see it go in.”

Schlaff came up big all night, totaling 10 points and nine rebounds on a night when every possession was important. He said his performance on the boards was inspired by second-year R-P coach Nate Aardema.

Photo/Andrew Johnson

“He inspires me to play as hard as I can,” Schlaff said. “I’ve never found that in a coach as much as I have with him. So I owe a lot of it to him. If you’re not hurting after a game, you’re doing something wrong.”

All the hustle from all the Rockets drew praise from Aardema.

“I’m proud of them,” the coach said. “It was gritty. Allendale can really shoot it and it puts a lot of stress on the defense. But we found a way to battle through adverse situations. We got stops when needed and big buckets. We played hard. That’s all I’m really ever going to ask.”

The game went back-and-forth all night.

The Rockets led 15-10 after one quarter. R-P extended its lead to seven points in the second quarter, then Allendale went on a run to take a 29-22 lead and went to halftime with a 29-25 edge.

Jaxson Whitaker led the Rockets with eight first-half points.

Photo/Andrew Johnson

Allendale led 39-37 after three quarters and came close to sealing the victory in regulation.

Whitaker hit a layup with under a minute left in the fourth quarter, tying the score 48-48. Allendale played for the final shot, but the attempt was partially blocked, forcing the game to OT.

The Rockets got the win by outscoring the Falcons 8-6 down the stretch.

Whitaker finished with a game-high 21 points. Jacek Haight led Allendale with 16 points.

The Rockets will host Grand Haven on Friday in their home opener.