By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – How long has it been since the Muskegon Catholic girls basketball team notched a win over rival Mona Shores?
It’s safe to say many of the players on both clubs were barely out of their diapers when it last happened.
It’s been 14 years to be precise, and the Crusader girls did it in fine fashion Tuesday night, beating back a tough Sailor squad to emerge with the 44-40 victory.
Muskegon Catholic (13-2, 3-1) relied on a mix of aggressive defense, timely offensive runs and just enough consistency from the free-throw line to get the win.
“We haven’t been in a game like that where we’ve trailed by that much to such a good team,” said Muskegon Catholic coach Erich Adams, describing how his squad clawed back from a nine-point deficit early in the third quarter. “I am just so proud of them. When we made our run, you could really see in the (Mona Shores) players’ faces the tide turning.”
Trailing 25-18 at the break, the Crusaders put together a 13-3 run in the final four minutes of the third, giving the hosts their first lead of the night at 31-28. From there, MCC went 9-for-13 from the free-throw line across the fourth to secure the win.
For Mona Shores (9-7, 6-1) coach Brad Kruth, it was tough watching his team, which had dominated the first half, struggle in the second half.
“We got the steals we needed, we got the possessions we needed,” said Kurth. “But you don’t win games shooting 41 percent from the free throw line and 34 percent from the field. We had all the shots we needed. We missed.”
Shores started strong, causing nine first-quarter Crusader turnovers and running out to the 14-9 lead after one. The teams traded baskets across the second, with MCC getting particular mileage out of the three-ball, hitting four three-pointers in the first 11 minutes of the contest. But both teams cooled down the rest of the half. But where poor shooting would doom the Sailors, rebounding and easy put-back baskets helped the Crusaders sprint away in the end.
“The biggest thing to me is that they outrebounded us tonight,” said Kruth, whose team lost the battle of the boards 21-20. “That hasn’t happened since I don’t know when. It’s a desire thing. We have to want to get rebounds and it wasn’t there tonight.”
Adams recognized it was his team’s desire to make those types of plays that proved vital in the end.
“I told the girls tonight that our goal is to play in the Breslin Center,” said Adams. “Today we took a big step toward that goal because you have to win games like this against teams that can get all over the floor just like we can. It really comes down to the hustle plays, the loose balls, hitting the free throws when you get in the bonus, those kinds of things. Today was a step toward our ultimate goal.”
Catholic’s Tootie Thompson led all scorers with 13, with teammates Moma Neal and Katherine Salisz each adding none points each.
Shores was led by Morgan Smith with 12, with Jasmyn Walker pouring in nine and Meredith Smith adding seven in the loss.
Muskegon Catholic 9-9-13-13-44
Mona Shores 14-11-3-12-40
Mona Shores 40: Amy Giddings 2 0-0 4, Morgan Smith 3 4-7 12, Meredith Smith 2 2-5 7, Corrine DeWitt 2 0-0 4, Jasmyn Walker 4 1-2 9, Saddie Vela 1 0-0 2, Sarah Jones 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 6-14 40.
Muskegon Catholic 44: Zee Harris 2 0-2 4, Momo Neal 2 5-10 9, Tootie Thompson 4 4-6 13, Toya Briggs 1 0-0 3, Katherine Salisz 3 2-4 9, Haleigh Locke 1 3-5 5. Totals 13 14-27 44.
Three-point field goals: Mo. Smith (2), Me. Smith, Thompson, Briggs, Salisz. Total fouls: Mona Shores 18, MCC 16. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none.