By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – You know things are going your way when you toss the ball to a teammate and instead of an alley-oop you get a three-pointer.
Such was the luck of Big Reds Friday night, as host Muskegon dominated the Rockford Rams in the season-opener 57-32.
Early in the fourth quarter, Muskegon’s Deshaun Thrower tossed the ball up to towering teammate Deyonta Davis, who was unable to get in position to receive it, watched it as it fell through the basket for a three-point field goal.
The missed connection was but one of a plethora of outstanding plays by the two Div. 1 college recruits, with Thrower heading to Stony Brook University next year while Davis announced this week he’ll suit up after graduation for Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans after graduation.
But it wasn’t just a two-man effort, as the Big Reds’ entire squad brought ample defensive intensity and offensive electricity to coast to the victory.
“Anytime you hold Rockford to under 40 points, you’re playing well defensively,” said Muskegon head coach Keith Guy. “And for us to only have seven practices and defend the way we did, I thought it was a great team effort.”
But, despite a commanding 32-19 lead at the break, Guy didn’t like everything he saw in the first half, as Davis finished with just five points (none in the second quarter), while Thrower piled up 18 points – mostly from the perimeter – across the first 16 minutes.
“I was disappointed in the guys,” said Muskegon head coach Keith Guy. “We’ve got a 6-9 guy (Davis) who can score and we’re not looking for him and we’re shoot jump shots. I wanted to make a concerted effort to get him the ball, and if we didn’t, we were going to get some guys in there who would. We want to play inside-out, and then I think we can spread the floor with our perimeter guys. But it’s got to go through him first.”
So, the Big Reds poured it into Davis on their first three possessions of the second half, and Davis finished the frame with six points, and 11 in the second half.
Guy said he wants Davis to play hard whether or not he figures into the offensive scheme for a particular stretch.
“I thought (Davis) played decent,” said Guy. “I thought there in the first half, with him not getting touches, I got on him for being a little bored and disinterested. We talked about him staying in the game regardless of him touching the ball or not. I want him to dominate the game without even making a basket. And then we’ll make sure we get him the ball. I’ll make sure of that.”
The Rams hung around, briefly, at the start of the game, jumping out to the 5-0 lead after almost two minutes into the contest. From there, though, it was all Big Reds, as the hosts scored 19 of the next 22 points to lead 19-8 after one.
Thrower got hot in the second, scoring nine of his 11 second-quarter points from beyond the three-point arc.
Thrower led all scorers with 26 points, on a blistering 9-for-10 shooting, while also finishing with four assists, three steals and a block. Davis poured in 16 points, and made life difficult for the Rams in the paint, turning back seven Ram shots while also collecting 10 boards. Junior Joeviair Kennedy dished out five assists in the win.
Rockford was paced by Casey Watters, who finished with 15 points.
Guy wasn’t content to just sit back and enjoy the win for too long.
‘It was a good first win but let’s keep it moving,’ was Guy’s message to his team after the game.
“We’ve really got a lot of work to do,” he continued. “We’ve got two weeks to work out the kinks. Feel good about yourselves tonight. We’ll take two days off. I really want to let those football guys really take their time and get healthy. We’ll come back on Monday and start working the kinks out and try to get better and get in basketball shape. Guys were gased. Couple guys were asking to come out. I thought they were going to (need to) get a couple oxygen tanks over there.”