By Mike Mattson
Local Sports Journal
D’Vonte Dockery has won district and regional basketball championships as a former player at Muskegon Heights.
But he admits there was something extra special after Muskegon defeated Grand Haven 58-50 for the Class A district title Friday night at Mona Shores High School. Dockery and others transferred to Muskegon after Heights encountered financial difficulties that affected the possible future of sports for the Tigers.
“It means a lot coming to a new school,” Dockery said after getting his picture taken with the district championship trophy. “We just wanted to bring it to Muskegon and make the community proud. We want to send a message in Class A that we will be playing hard the whole way.”
Dockery did his part with a solid game. He played all 32 minutes, scored a team-high 15 points and added four rebounds, two assists and two steals.
The Big Reds (17-6) won’t have long to celebrate because the regional tournament starts Monday at Gaylord. Muskegon will tip off at 7 p.m. against Marquette, which defeated Alpena 64-50 for its district crown.
Muskegon coach Keith Guy, who previously coached at Heights, was all smiles after knocking off Grand Haven for the second time this season.
“It’s sweet man,” Guy said. “I can’t describe the feeling. We’ve talked about building this program with scholarships and championships. This is the first step with this championship.”
Grand Haven (12-11) received a standout effort from senior guard Sean Steffel, who finished with 22 points and two steals.
The Big Reds got off to a slow start and trailed 11-4 early and 13-10 after one quarter.
Muskegon took control in the second quarter with a 12-4 run and led 27-20 at the half.
Grand Haven played the Bucs even in the third quarter, trailing 35-30 entering the final eight minutes.
Muskegon stretched the lead to 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Bucs wouldn’t quit.
The game got interesting after Ty VanWieren scored a basket and two Muskegon turnovers led to two jump shots by Mackenzie Carter that cut the deficit to 53-50 with 58 seconds left.
But that was as close as Haven could get as Deyonta Davis scored on an offensive rebound and Deshaun Thrower made 3-of-4 free throws down the stretch.
Thrower finished with 13 points, four assists and made 9-of-13 free throws, while the sophomore Davis contributed nine points and nine rebounds.
For the game, Muskegon made 20-of-31 free throws and outrebounded the Bucs 25-16.
Grand Haven coach Steve Hewitt said his team had to stay calm and shoot better than its 37 percent effort from the floor.
“We missed some open looks,” Hewitt said. “You have to make shots in this kind of game.
“I thought we were more positive (in the first quarter) and we got some stops early. They turned it up on us. It took us awhile to adjust. We lost our poise. I thought that was a key part of the game – our inability to keep our heads.”
Carter scored 10 points and VanWieren added eight points and five rebounds for the Bucs.
Muskegon is hoping to keep the momentum going now with a trip north for the regional tournament.
“It feels good, but we’re not satisfied,” Thrower said. “We want the state championship trophy.”
MUSKEGON 58, GRAND HAVEN 50
Grand Haven 13-7-10-20-50
D’Vonte Dockery 4 6-8 15, Deshaun Thrower 2 9-13 13, Deyonta Davis 4 1-2 9, Jordan Waire 2 3-6 7, William Roberson 2 0-0 6, Joeviair Kennedy 2 0-0 5, Juwon Martin 1 0-0 2, Ronald Jenkins 0 1-2 1. Totals 17 20-31 58.
GRAND HAVEN (12-11)
Sean Steffel 7 8-12 22, Mackenzie Carter 4 2-4 10, Ty VanWieren 3 2-2 8, Ethan Groothuis 2 0-0 5, Isaak Newhouse 1 1-2 3, Connor Grimes 0 2-2 2. Totals 17 15-22 50.
3-pointers-Dockery, Roberson (2), Kennedy; Groothuis. Total fouls-Muskegon 17, Grand Haven 23. Fouled out – none. Technicals-none.