Muskegon plays like a team on a mission, runs away with Class A state title with win over Bloomfield Hills

Big Reds win first title in over half a century behind contributions from entire starting lineup

By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal

EAST LANSING – The Muskegon Big Red boys basketball team went into Saturday’s state final game versus Bloomfield Hills thinking that, if they played up to their ability, the only team on the floor who could stop the Big Reds was, well, the Big Reds.

Deyonta Davis on the monster jam for Muskegon. Photo/Tim Reilly

Deyonta Davis on the monster jam for Muskegon. Photo/Tim Reilly

But by the end of the first half it was clear that was not going to happen.

Instead of shooting themselves in the foot and tarnishing a heretofore undefeated campaign, the Big Reds were every bit the best team in the state, and one of the best teams in the country.

Muskegon, which hasn’t won a state title in basketball in over half a century, lived up to the hype Saturday, driving all the preseason press to its logical conclusion, convincingly demolishing an over-matched Bloomfield Hills squad 91-67 to win the 2014 Class A title.

Muskegon finishes with an unblemished 28-0 record, the first Michigan high school boys team to finish undefeated since Rockford did it more than a decade ago.

It was Muskegon’s first boys basketball title since 1937 and the first for Head Coach Keith Guy, who was unsuccessful in several previous tries as Muskegon Heights head coach, and last year fell in the regional finals, Guy’s first as Big Red head coach.

Will Roberson on another And-1 play for Muskegon. Photo/Tim Reilly

Will Roberson on another And-1 play for Muskegon. Photo/Tim Reilly

For Guy, it was clearly the completion of a grueling marathon which people had deemed preordained from the very start of the season, though could have run off the tracks at many points along the way.

“This championship is a long time coming,” said a tearfully happy Guy. “We’ve been trying to climb this mountain for years, and finally we get to the top. I’m just excited for (my players).

The players were pretty excited too.

“I don’t know what to say right now,” said senior guard Deshaun Thrower after the game.

It was the most special moment in a season of special moments, and Thrower, this year’s Mr. Basketball award winner and Stonybrook University commit, didn’t lose sight of the game’s, the season’s, absolute novelty in terms of success and goal acquisition.

“We are so used to being on the other end,” he continued, invoking this past fall’s state football title game loss, as well as last year’s regional basketball finals loss. “This time, it’s tears of joy instead of tears of sorrow. It definitely feels good to get it for us, coach, and the rest of the players who didn’t get one.”

Deshaun Thrower dribbles the ball up the floor during the Big Reds Class A state final win. Photo/Tim Reilly

Deshaun Thrower dribbles the ball up the floor during the Big Reds Class A state final win. Photo/Tim Reilly

Frankly, once the Big Reds showed little desire to undermine their own efforts,the outcome was seldom in doubt. The Big Reds sliced and diced through the Blackhawk defense at will, hitting shots, again playing otherworldly defense, and answering any Blackhawk charge by providing one of their own.

Bloomfield Hills, for it’s part, did take a 6-4 lead two minutes into the game. Yet, it was the last time the squad would hold anything remotely like an advantage.

Junior Joeviair Kennedy completed the old fashioned three-point play to give Muskegon the 7-6 lead, and the Blackhawks’ fate seemed crystal clear.

A 9-1 run to finish the quarter, led by five points from Thrower, gave the Big Reds the 25-15 lead.

Thrower and Kennedy combined for 14 points in the frame.

Muskegon students get amped during Muskegon's Class A state championship. Photo/Tim Reilly

Muskegon students get amped during Muskegon’s Class A state championship. Photo/Tim Reilly

Bloomfield Hills head coach Duane Graves knew his team would have to shoot well if they stood a chance.

“(Our) Shots just didn’t fall,” lamented Graves. “That happens. The ball just didn’t bounce our way. We couldn’t make a layup in the first half, in and out, in and out. Someone forgot to take the Saran Wrap off the rim for us.”

But Muskegon was just getting started.

Senior William Roberson went to work in the second, posting 10 points in the final three minutes of the half, completing two and-ones and going 6-for-6 from the line to double the Big Reds’ lead to 20, 45-25, at the break.

Everybody was rolling.

Jason Loera gets past Bloomfield Hills' Nathan Grahm. Photo/Tim Reilly

Jason Loera gets past Bloomfield Hills’ Nathan Grahm. Photo/Tim Reilly

It felt good,” said senior guard Jordan Waire. “We were just going. We didn’t want to let up.”

Muskegon shot a blistering 68 percent in the half (on 15-for-22 shooting from the field), while the Blackhawks more-than struggled, going 9-for-31 from the floor for 29 percent.

“We talked about leaving nothing in the tank,” said Guy. “Just empty yourself. We’ve gone 28 games, and we didn’t want to leave anything here. We wanted to go back with the state title trophy and finish with a perfect season.”

Bloomfield Hills sought a way back into the contest as the third commenced, and when Muskegon junior center, and Div. 1 recruit, Deyonta Davis picked up his third foul 30 seconds into the second half to give the Blackhawks a ray of hope.

Hope was short lived though, as Blackhawk senior center Yante Maten fouled out with a minute-and-a-half left in the third, eliminating anything standing in Davis’ way underneath.

Muskegon Big Reds during their pregame warm up. Photo/Tim Reilly

Muskegon Big Reds during their pregame warm up. Photo/Tim Reilly

Not that Maten had any chance over Davis, who will grace that very floor for the Spartans in less than two years.

But it made things that much easier.

After Maten fouled out, the Big Reds scored the final seven points of the frame to lead 65-38 heading into the fourth.

Once there, Davis had three spectacular dunks, including two alley oops, one assisted by Thrower, another by Kennedy, on back-to-back possessions, and then capped the sequence with a three-pointer that underscored the big man’s range.

“He’s real tall, he blocks shots,” said a dejected Maten, who tried his best to match up with Davis. “I had to alter my shot a couple times. He’s a well-rounded kid.”

Muskegon head coach Keith Guy hoists the Class A state title trophy after his Big Reds defeated Bloomfield Hills 91-67. Photo/Tim Reily

Muskegon head coach Keith Guy hoists the Class A state title trophy after his Big Reds defeated Bloomfield Hills 91-67. Photo/Tim Reily

With around three minutes left in the game, Guy slowly pulled his starters, and each exited with thunderous applause.

“The game just got out of our hands,” said Graves. “I think our inexperience caught up to us.

“Their guards are quick, they spread the floor really well,” he continued. “They do a lot of one-on-one attacking the basket. When you have inconsistent calls on hand checks and stuff like that, it makes it tough for us to cover them.”

Or maybe Muskegon’s guards were just that much quicker than Bloomfield Hills.

Davis led the way for Muskegon, posting 26 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks, while Thrower poured in 21 points and three assists, and Roberson had 17 points, going 10-for-10 from the line, and dished out five assists in his final game as a Big Red.

Kennedy had 14 points and five boards, and Waire added five points, four rebounds and had two steals in the victory.

The Blackhawks were led by Xzavier Reynolds, who finished with a team-high 21 points, including going 4-for-4 from behind the three-point line and 3-for-3 from the free throw line. Maten added 13 points, five boards, and three blocks in just 18 minutes of playing time.

Muskegon Big Reds celebrate after winning their first state championship since 1937. Photo/Tim Reilly

Muskegon Big Reds celebrate after winning their first state championship since 1937. Photo/Tim Reilly

Everything was geared toward the postseason,” said Guy. “These guys have the formula for success. We don’t have any egos on our team. That’s the formula. They are generally playing for one another, happy for each other. They are happy as long as we get the win. It is a brotherhood, a family.”

In fact, family was a big topic among the Big Reds at the post-game presser.

“It’s like a bond, like a real family,” said Roberson. “We’ve known each other since we were little and (Guy) has been coaching us since then. He’s been there for us every step of the way.”

We’ve built a relationship,” said Thrower. “Me and him and my parents and him. He’s like a another father to me. He looks after me, on and off the court. He’s going to continue to do that. We’ll have that bond, even after high school.”

It’s a blessing to run across this man,” Waire declared. “He took me in, kept me on track. I switched schools, came back and he was still the same man. I can go on and on about him. I just love him.”

Guy was awash with emotion when these words were said.

He soldiered on, however.

20014 Class A state champs, Muskegon Big Reds. Photo/Tim Reilly

20014 Class A state champs, Muskegon Big Reds. Photo/Tim Reilly

“We’ve (wanted to) built a two-headed monster, like they have here,” said Guy, citing MSU’s recent success in both football and basketball. “Shane Fairfield does an excellent job (as football coach). We teach them the same message, and it showed because we had a football team finish in the finals. And now this basketball team finish as champions. I think this formula works.”

Speaking of Fairfield, the jovial coach was spotted dancing near the top of the middle-level rim while the entire crowd cheered him on.

That celebratory mood continues.

The Big Reds are hosting a community rally in honor the state title team Sunday, March 23 at the high school.

That event is set to start at 4 p.m.

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