By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

ROCKFORD – The Muskegon Big Reds had things seemingly in control through three quarters of Tuesday night’s Class A quarterfinal matchup against Grand Rapids Christian.

thrower dunk 2

Muskegon junior guard Deshaun Thrower puts down a two-handed jam in the first half of Tuesday night’s quarterfinal game at Rockford. Photo/Tim Reilly

But along came the fateful final eight minutes in which Eagles turned up the intensity and overcame a double-digit deficit to claim a 64-61 victory over the Big Reds in a game played at Rockford High School.

Muskegon put on a show in the third quarter and surged to a 48-36 lead. But within the first 3:20 of the final quarter, the Drake Harris-led Eagles tied the game before eventually claiming the victory and a spot in Friday’s semifinal game at the Breslin Center. Grand Rapids Christian will take on Romulus, a 93-91 winner over Detroit Pershing in another quarterfinal matchup.

“Dwayne Barfield stepped up a lot on our team and I knew my team would pick me up,” Harris said. “And now we’re going to the Breslin.”

“I thought we didn’t put them away,” Muskegon coach Keith Guy said. “I thought we started playing not to lose.”

While the third quarter was a masterpiece for the Big Reds, the fourth quarter was a nightmare.

Juwon Martin led the Big Reds’ third-quarter show with 11 points, including a trio of 3-pointers. Joviair Kennedy in a quarter in which Muskegon had a 22-9 scoring advantage and turned a one-point halftime deficit into a 12-point lead. Martin finished with 18 points.

Things began to unravel early in the fourth when Christian’s Wuoi Mach hit a 3-pointer, DeLeon Brown hit two free throws, Drake Harris hit two free throws and Dwayne Barfield scored on a layup then hit two free throws. Just that quick, the deficit was down to four for the Eagles.

“We were running a trap defense and we created some turnovers,”said  Harris, who finished with 25 points. “And we executed and put it away for the win.”

Mach hit two free throws with 4:40 remaining to tie the game at 50-all and it was a sprint to the finish.

Kennedy gave Muskegon a 57-55 lead with less than 3 minutes to play, but Harris wore a path to the free-throw line for the Eagles. In the fourth quarter, he made 8-of-10, including 5-for-6 in the final 40 seconds.

Deshaun Thrower then hit two free throws with 30 seconds left.

Then came some controversy as players from both teams rolled on the floor for a loose ball.  An official granted the Eagles a timeout with 16 seconds left and Christian leading 61-58.

“We couldn’t catch a break,” Guy said. “Anytime you have a quarterfinal game like that and you have an official right on top of it, called a jump ball and there was no possession established. I don’t know how you can get a timeout with no possession established. But, if we take care of business, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

Harris then hit two free throws with 12.6 seconds left before Thrower hit a highly contested 3-pointer with 4.3 seconds left. Harris then made one of his two free throws with 2.9 seconds left to give the Eagles a 64-61 lead.

Thrower’s long heave from just inside the midcourt line hit the rim and bounced away as the buzzer sounded.

“We didn’t handle ourselves well,” Guy said of the fourth quarter. “I thought we should have done better and not played not to lose and we never teach that. We always play to win and that came back to bite us tonight.”

The statistic sheet showed that Muskegon may have deserved a better fate.

“These kids fought and did what I asked them to do,” Guy said. “We just came up short. We didn’t handle ourselves down the stretch like we should have. But for the most part, we forced 21 turnovers, we outrebounded them and we did a lot of things right, we just didn’t close it.”

Besides Martin, Thrower also had 18 points and Kennedy added 11. Thrower had six rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Muskegon finished the season 19-7. The Big Reds were vying for a spot in the state semifinals for the first time since 1942.


Grand Rapids Christian 64, Muskegon 61


Drake Harris 5 14-19 25, Wuoi Mach 3 4-6 11, Dwayne Barfield 3 4-5 10, Joel Zwiers 3 1-1 9, DaRohn Scott 2 0-1 4, Davaris Collier 1 0-0 3, DeLoen Brown 0 2-2 2. Totals 17 25-34 64.

Deshaun Thrower 4 9-12 18, Juwon Martin 6 2-4 18, Joviair Kennedy 5 0-0 11, D’Vonte Dockery 4 0-3 8, Ronald Jenkins 1 2-2 4, Deyonta Davis 1 0-2 2. Totals 21 13-23 61.

GRC 12 – 15 – 9 – 28 – 64
Muskegon 7 – 19 – 22 – 13 – 61

3-pointers: Thrower, Martin (4), Kennedy, Harris, Mach, Zwiers (2), Collier. Total fouls: Muskegon 26, GR Christian 16. Technicals: none.