By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – So that’s the Orchard View girls basketball team that Coach Rodney Walker was so excited about during preseason scrimmages.
And that’s the Jayshonna Blackshire he was talking about.
The talented Cardinals haven’t lived up to their potential for most of the season, heading into this week with a lackluster 9-6 record.
But they gave a hint of how they’re capable of playing Tuesday, using a career-high 38 points from Blackshire and an aggressive defense to cruise to an easy 68-38 Lakes 8 Conference victory over Fruitport on their home court.
The win gives the Cardinals a 3-3 record in the Lakes 8, which keeps them in the race to catch conference leader Tri-County, which only has one league loss.
Orchard View has three Lakes 8 games left to play, including one against Tri-County.
While Walker would prefer that his team have a better record at this point, he also believes the Cards may be clicking at the right time.
“We’ve had a little bit of inconsistency, but the team is just really starting to gel,” Walker said. “I think we’re coming together at the right time to maybe make a push in March.”
Blackshire was the star of the show for Orchard View, hitting shots from the outside and weaving through traffic for easy layups all night. She scored 18 points the first half, including 12 in the pivotal second quarter.
The game was tied 15-15 after one quarter, but Blackshire’s fireworks helped the Cardinals race to a 15-point halftime lead.
“I think that’s the career-high of her life,” Walker said of Blackshire’s point total. “She did a great job tonight. Her focus was really high, her spirits were high. She did a great job within the offense and got everyone involved.
“She can be a real spark plug when she settles down and stays disciplined with the things we do on offense and defense. She got it done tonight.”
Orchard View’s aggressive defense also made a difference. It’s full court press clearly rattled the Trojans in the first half, forcing more than a few of Fruitport’s 12 turnovers.
The Cardinals outscored the Trojans 15-4 in the second quarter and 17-8 in third quarter to take control of the contest.
Senior standout Daejia Hill contributed 11 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds for the Cardinals.
“That was probably one of our best defensive performances of the year,” Walker said. “We always try to concentrate on playing tough defense and tonight things really came together. Our bread and butter is our man-to-man defense. We really don’t play anything else. Our intensity and our conditioning is enough to let us sustain the man-to-man for an entire game.”
Fruitport Coach Bob German knew his team probably needed to sweep the rest of its league games – starting against Orchard View – to stay in the conference race. The Trojans dropped to 9-6 overall and 4-4 in the league.
But he was more than willing to tip his hat to the Orchard View squad that showed up Tuesday.
“They can play like that,” German said of the winners. “If they show up on fire they just feed off from it. We’ve played them before when they were like that. They started out on fire tonight and just gave it everything they had.”
German said his team’s own mistakes on offense were as much of a problem as Orchard View’s defense.
“At one point in time we had 10 turnovers, five of which I think went off our feet,” he said. “There were dribbling mistakes. We didn’t take care of the ball.”
Breanne Burns paced Fruitport with 12 points. Burns, Francesca Cerniglia and Iyana Brown each grabbed nine rebounds.