By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – You can’t judge great teams just by the number of blowout wins they record.
How they respond when things go badly is equally important.
The Muskegon Big Reds got their first taste of adversity Saturday night when their cold shooting and foul trouble allowed East Kentwood to overcome an early deficit and pull within three points midway through the third quarter.
But the Big Reds got their act together down the stretch and walked away with a 69-63 victory over the Falcons in the final game of the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Basketball Classic at Reeths-Puffer High School.
Muskegon was paced by junior center Deyonta Davis, who scored a game-high 32 points, including nine in the decisive fourth quarter.
The Big Reds, ranked first in the state among all classes by the Detroit Free Press, finished the two-day tournament 2-0 and ran their overall mark to 3-0 on the season.
East Kentwood dropped to 1-2 overall.
Lansing Eastern defeated Westland John Glenn 58-54 in the first game of the night.
The Big Reds looked like they were hitting on all cylinders in the first quarter and were primed for an easy victory. They jumped out to a 24-11 lead at the first buzzer, highlighted by a pair of perfect feeds from Deshaun Thrower to Davis for easy dunks, plus three-pointers by Thrower, Jordan Waire and
But Muskegon went cold in the second quarter, missing its first eight shots from the floor and converting only 2 of 13 in the quarter. East Kentwood had a 14-6 edge and narrowed the score to 30-25 at halftime.
The Big Red slump continued in the third quarter. Muskegon extended its lead to 35-27 in the first two minutes with a jumper from Roberson and a three-point play by Davis, but East Kentwood responded with a 9-4 run to pull within three midway through the third.
Muskegon re-exerted itself with an 11-5 run over the last three minutes of the third quarter to take a 50-41 lead at the buzzer. Joeviair Kennedy and Roberson sparked the uprising for the Big Reds with a pair of driving layups, Waire hit a jump shot while Davis added a layup and two free throws.
Despite the shaky play in the second and third quarters, Muskegon Coach Keith Guy said he was pleased with his team’s response when the lead started slipping away. He said foul trouble for several key players allowed the Falcons to rally, but his players still managed to secure the victory.
“We played good enough to win,” Guy said. “I’m not going to discount my players. We faced some adversity tonight and they showed they could play through it. I’m not trying to sound cocky, but I didn’t think the game was really as close as the final score.”
East Kentwood outscored Muskegon 22-19 in the fourth quarter with five three-pointers, but Davis kept the Big Reds on top with nine points down the stretch.
“He’s tough, he’s solid, he’s got an all-around game,” Guy said about his dominant post player. “He’s everything everybody says about him and he’s only a junior.”
Davis finished with 19 rebounds and five blocked shots. Thrower added 11 points and seven assists, Waire chipped in 11 points while Roberson totaled five assists for Muskegon.
Brent Kimbrel led East Kentwood with 15 points.
The game was marred by 35 personal fouls– 18 for Muskegon and 17 for East Kentwood. The Big Reds made 15 of 27 shots from the line while the Falcons hit 14 of 23.