By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Outside of Muskegon High School’s Raymond Potter Gymnasium, it was about as brutal as it gets during a Michigan winter.
But inside, except for all the winter jackets and other snowy accoutrements, you wouldn’t have known summer from winter.
The games went on as planned Friday night, and while every other area team chose to cancel their respective games, the Muskegon/Mona Shores boys and girls basketball contests went off without a hitch.
In fact, both games were pretty darn exciting, as a packed gym of chilly but excited sports fans can attest.
And boy did they get their money’s worth.
Following the Mona Shores girls’ 52-47 victory over the Big Reds, the boys took the floor. Muskegon (10-0, 3-0), which is nationally ranked, played in spurts, squandering a big half time lead to start the final quarter only to battle back for the 65-58 OK black victory.
“We’re better that what we played,” admitted Muskegon head coach Keith Guy. “Give (Mona Shores) credit for hanging in there and doing what they are suppose to do.”
The visiting Sailors (7-3, 2-1) played inspired, and effectively, throughout the first, taking a 13-10 lead before Muskegon finished the frame on a 6-1 run and take the lead at 19-14.
“I thought we were going to have to play good half-court defense and stop their transition game,” said Mona Shores head coach Gene Gifford. “The half court defense, we played real well. We didn’t necessarily take away the things they like to do. We made it hard for them. What hurt us was the transition game.”
The Big Reds ran wild in the second with dunks, fast break points and several and-ones, finishing the half on a 12-2 run that put the score at 36-21.
It looked like the game was in the sack for Muskegon but a few critical mistakes let the Sailors back in. Things were cruising along for Muskegon, and especially for junior center Deyonta Davis, who never really got into rhythm offensively – finishing with eight points – but was a huge factor on the other end of the floor.
In just over a minute midway through the third, though, Davis came alive with an easy layup, an alley oop from teammate Joeviair Kennedy, and finished it off with a thunderous dunk that brought friend and foe alike onto their feet in wonder. In between, though, he picked up his third and fourth fouls, and would go on to sit the next eight minutes.
“I didn’t want (Davis) to pick up his fifth foul. I thought we could weather the storm without him,” said Guy.
The Sailors smelled blood in the water, finishing the third on a 9-2 run and cutting the lead to eight, 49-41, heading into the fourth.
Mona Shores was just getting started, drawing to within one point, 51-50, behind a 9-2 run to open the fourth. Everything was going the way of the Sailors.
“When (Davis) went out, I feel we got a little more assertive going to the bucket,” said Gifford. “And we were able to get second and third shot opportunities.”
And then, like a light bulb, the Big Reds looked every bit the undefeated, state and nationally ranked powerhouse team everyone expects of them. Senior guard Deshaun Thrower took the game into his own hands with dribble drives, scoring seven of his team high 21 points, as part of a 15-5 run, to put away the game.
This isn’t the first time the Big Reds have done this. They’ve won several games in similar fashion. Guy viewed it as a troubling sign.
“It’s ridiculous, and we’ve got to do better,” he said. “I was telling the guys that we just decide ‘Ok, we’re going to play now, let’s play.’ And then we quit playing. I’m not taking anything away from Mona Shores. They played well. We’ve seen it repeatedly, and it’s going to come back and haunt us one day. Maybe we need to take a loss. We need to see that this is very serious, when you don’t put teams away. (Shores) came back, and they could have easily won that game.”
For Gifford it was at least a moral victory.
“I told our kids, ‘You have nothing to be ashamed of,’” said Gifford. “I think they proved tonight they can play in those games. We’re aren’t out of anything, we’re 2-1 in the conference.”
Junior Muskegon guard William Roberson finished with 20 points, likewise on dribble-drives, while both Davis and Kennedy finished with eight points each.
Senior guard Marcus Tumblin paced the Sailors with 23 points, while senior forward Adreon Billips had 13 points, and senior Logan Haugh added nine points in the loss.