By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
Muskegon Catholic Central might be a good sleeper pick to win the Class D state girls’ basketball tournament.
The host Crusaders launched district play Monday night and routed Fruitport Calvary Christian 73-43 at Ray Cioe Gymnasium.
It proved to be an impressive performance for the Crusaders, whose quickness, depth and talent were too much for the Eagles.
“That’s a good team,” Eagles’ coach Brad Richards said. “They could win a state championship.”
Eleven Crusaders scored led by senior leader Katherine Salisz, who totaled 23 points and surpassed 1,000 points in her four-year career.
MCC committed only nine turnovers and forced 28 turnovers with an effective full-court press. The Crusaders trailed 9-6 early before kicking it into overdrive the rest of the way.
“As a coach, you always ask for a complete game – 32 minutes,” MCC coach Erich Adams said. “I’ll take 28.
“We prepared very hard for this game. I’m proud of the girls for putting together a near perfect game. This is the most complete game I’ve coached in three years. It’s certainly the best game this year.”
MCC advances to Wednesday’s district semifinals to face Walker West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science.
Haleigh Locke and Momo Neal each scored 11 points and Tootie Thompson chipped in with 10 points for the Crusaders (18-2).
Calvary Christian standout Taylor Richards scored a team-high 14 points, including eight in the fourth quarter. She also had nine rebounds.
Hayley Mohr closed out her Eagles’ career with 13 points, four rebounds and three assists and Brianna Zehr added 10 points and five steals.
MCC led 15-9 after one quarter, 33-16 at halftime and 49-27 after three quarters. The game got away from the Eagles in the second quarter when MCC forced nine turnovers with its pressure defense.
“We felt we were ready and felt we could get the job done,” Adams said.
MCC also handed Calvary Christian (19-2) its other loss, 63-50, in January.
Brad Richards said he devised some different press breakers for the second meeting, but nothing seemed to work against the inspired Crusaders.
Adams said his team played much better defense Monday night, especially guarding the paint area where Taylor Richards often scores.
For Salisz, it proved to be a special night with the victory and reaching the 1,000-point career milestone. Adams texted her Wednesday and told her she was nine points away from 1,000.
“Tonight was a huge win to spark our confidence,” said Salisz, who also had six assists and three steals. “Today we came together and played very well. We think we can make it all the way. We have to keep playing basketball and don’t let anything take us down.”
MCC received a boost in the second semester when several Muskegon transfers became eligible. They played a part in the Crusaders dethroning the defending district champion Eagles.
“It’s hard enough to beat a good Muskegon Catholic Central team, and to have starters from Muskegon come over here, that makes for a tough challenge,” Brad Richards said. “We weren’t up to that. We played the best players from Muskegon and Muskegon Catholic. That’s a collection of all-stars.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. We were conference champions this year. We will miss our seniors, but we’ll reload next year.”
MUSKEGON CATHOLIC 73, FRUITPORT CALVARY 43
FRUITPORT CALVARY (19-2)
Sophia Zelenka 0 0-2 0, Hayley Mohr 3 6-7 13, Brianna Zehr 4 1-5 10, Shymari Harris 2 0-0 4,Taylor Richards 3 7-9 14, Samantha Rasmussen 1 0-0 2, Allyson Richards 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 14-25 43.
MUSKEGON CATHOLIC (18-2)
Zee Harris 1 0-0 2, Momo Neal 5 0-0 11, Tootie Thompson 4 0-0 10, Natalie Bertolone 0 1-2 1, Toya Briggs 0 4-8 4, Janae Coon 1 0-0 2, Marissa Mastella 1 0-0 2, Katherine Salisz 7 8-12 23, Haleigh Locke 4 3-5 11, Kendall Wickstrom 2 2-2 6, Gabrielle Thelen 0 1-2 1. Totals 25 19-31 73.
Fruitport Calvary 9-7-11-16-43
M. Catholic 15-18-16-24-73
3-pointers-Mohr, Zehr, T. Richards; Neal, Thompson (2), Salisz. Total fouls-Fruitport Calvary 15, Muskegon Catholic 19. Fouled out-none.