By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – If there are two things you’ll be able to bet on this boys basketball season, the first is Muskegon Catholic Central is going to be very good.
And while it didn’t look like it through three quarters at Tuesday night’s season opener, another sure thing is North Muskegon is going to be very good, too.
After a monstrous first quarter where the host Crusaders ran out to an electric 29-13 lead, and after Catholic held a seemingly insurmountable 61-37 edge after three quarters, North Muskegon battled back in the fourth, outscoring the Crusaders 26-10 in the final quarter before some timely free throws sealed the 71-63 win for Catholic.
“Our kids had a lot of energy to start the game,” said MCC head coach Lamar Jordan. “(Senior guard) Adam Callow was on fire; he couldn’t miss. His play really fired up our guys, and we played great defense in the first half.”
Callow was unstoppable in the first, ringing up 16 points in the first eight minutes – with four three-point makes in that span – to help his squad to the 16-point lead.
The Crusaders pushed the lead to 21 in the second, getting eight points from senior center Ian Tyler while the Catholic defense held the Norse to a skimpy 8-for-26 shooting from the field in the first half.
“I don’t have an answer,” said Norse head coach Jeff Cooke about his team’s lackluster start. “I thought we were ready to play. We had good scrimmages leading up to the game, our practices were pretty decent. I felt pretty good tonight. Obviously (Muskegon Catholic) came out ready to go. I think over the first two quarters we maybe had three or four defensive rebounds. To me, that’s a pretty good indication that (Catholic) was shooting well. They made their shots.
MCC lead 47-26 at the break.
“I just kept telling the guys, ‘You have to stay with it, stay with it. Don’t quit, don’t quit. There’s a lot of game left.’”
Indeed there was, for although the MCC lead ballooned to 25 after three quarters, the Norse owned the fourth.
Led by junior guard Mitch Edick, who poured in 13 of his team-high 18 points in the final eight minutes, the Norse put together a 12-1 run to start the final stanza, and another 9-0 mid-quarter run that cut the Crusaders’ led to just six.
“I think, really, we lost our legs eventually,” said Jordan. “With our long football season, I think the kids got a little tired and it eventually showed. That’s not to take anything away from North Muskegon. They made a run. And I told our kids at halftime that they would make a run, and they did.”
But Tyler had a huge and-1 sequence, and Callow hit two foul shots with 18 seconds remaining to pull out the victory.
While he isn’t happy with the loss, the way his team finished gave Cooke something with which to work.
“Hey, losing stinks; I wanted to win,” said Cooke. “But, being down by 30 in the third quarter and come back to cut it to six in the fourth, that’s something to be happy about.
“It wasn’t like we didn’t come out with any energy,” Cooke continued. “It just seemed like our energy, our enthusiasm really picked up in the second half. We had some good things happen and that seemed to change the way we played.”
For Jordan, the narrow victory after holding such a large lead also gives his team some points of emphasis.
“We’re going to have to finish games better in the future,” said Jordan. “Even with a lead, we like to think the game is 0-0 at the half. Tonight, North Muskegon outplayed us in both the third and fourth quarters. We did just enough to stave off their charge.”
Callow led all scorers with 27 points, while Tyler totaled 15 and Dom Woodard added eight in the victory.
Along with Edick’s 18-point effort, the Norse were also paced by Antonio Gordon’s 16 points, with teammate Reese McCamant adding seven in the loss.