By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – At certain points of Friday night’s boys OK Crossover hoops contest between Muskegon and Grand Haven, the host Big Reds looked every bit the team everyone expected them to be this season, controlling the boards, getting out and running, flooding the court with talented-player-after-talented-player with every substitution.
And yet, the Grand Haven boys dominated the second half, forcing the Big Reds to play well down the stretch, and giving the Bucs (5-4) hope for the remainder of the season. Muskegon junior Deshaun Thrower and senior Juwon Martin sank two free-throws apiece in the final 20 seconds to pull out the hard-fought 55-48 victory.
“I felt like they wanted to keep (the scores) in the 40s, and we wanted to get the game into the 60s,” said Muskegon head coach Keith Guy, whose team is 4-4 overall. “We didn’t make our goal, but we kept them in the 40s. Grand Haven does a great job of controlling the tempo, and I thought in the second half they controlled the tempo. “
“We wanted to be in a position to win the last four minutes,” said Grand Haven head coach Steve Hewitt. “We were right there. We just didn’t get the plays in the end.”
Things were tit-for-tat the opening 14 minutes of the game before Muskegon whipped out a nifty 10-2 flurish to close the half, bookending the period with three free-throw makes by Deyonta Davis, who was fouled behind the three-point line as time expired.
“That was our tempo,” said Guy. “I came into the locker room and talked to the guys about playing at that tempo. I thought we were ready to roll.”
Muskegon led 28-19 at the break.
But then it was Grand Haven’s turn.
Opting to play to its strength, Grand Haven did an excellent job of forcing Muskegon to play the Bucs’ own pace. The Bucs clawed back at the 2:31 mark of the third, when Ty VanWieren’s three-pointer tied things at 34-34.
“It was a matter of scrapping and getting a few stops,” said Hewitt. “That was the big thing; we needed a few consecutive stops and we got those early on in the third quarter.”
“That third quarter,” said Guy, “they played better. And we didn’t do what we did to get the lead originally. We have to do a better job in that department.”
The Big Reds carried a 40-34 lead into the fourth. But a 12-6 Grand Haven run over the first five minutes of the fourth had things tied once again, this time at 46-all. In fact, Bucs’ senior Sean Steffel, after an outstanding nine point fourth-quarter effort – finishing with a game-high 16 points – missed the and-one free-throw, and Grand Haven never had another chance to lead. VanWieren’s long-range jumper with 20 seconds left cut the Big Red lead to three before Martin and Thrower’s free-throws iced it.
“I thought we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Guy. “We had a chance to put the game away and we didn’t. We have to do a better job of doing that (emphasis his). I’m disappointed in our execution and our valuing possessions, our communication on defense. We had a lot of breakdowns tonight that we have to fix. At Game 8 we shouldn’t be talking about these things right now. We should be getting better. I’m happy with the win, but we have things we have to work on.”
“We had a couple of point-blank shots that just didn’t go in,” said Hewitt. “Those are killers in a game where possessions matter.”
Martin shared game-high honors with Grand Haven’s Steffel, pouring in 16 points, including six in the fourth, while Thrower finished with 15 points, and Joeviar Kennedy has 12. Davis had five points and a game-high six boards.
VanWieren finished with 14 points, and Kevin LaCroix had five rebounds in the loss.
Muskegon 55: D’Vonte Dockery 1 1-2 3, Deshaun Thrower 4 7-9 15, William Roberson 1 0-0 3, Joeviar Kennedy 6 0-1 12, Juwon Martin 5 5-5 16, Deyonta Davis 2 1-2 5, Keyon-Dre Craig 0 1-2 1. Totals 19 15-20 55.
Grand Haven 48: Sean Steffel 6 3-5 16, Kevin LaCroix 0 2-2 2, Isaak Newhouse 1 1-3 4, Mackenzie Carter 5 0-0 10, Ryan Peterson 1 0-0 2, Ty VanWieren 5 4-6 14. Totals 19 10-16 48.
Total fouls: Muskegon 18, Grand Haven 15. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none.
Grand Haven 10-9-15-14