By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – When the Mona Shores girls basketball team wins a big game, the headline usually includes the last name of Walker.
It might be Jasmyn Walker, the senior star and All-State candidate, or it might be her younger sister, Jordan Walker, a freshman standout.
But it takes more than two good players to compete for a championship. The Sailor girls demonstrated that on Friday in an O-K Black Conference showdown with Reeths-Puffer.
Senior Sarah Jones and junior Kelsey Wolffis answered the bell down the stretch, combining for 10 fourth quarter points to lead the Sailors to a 55-45 victory and sole possession of first place in the league.
The Sailors’ victory avenged an earlier loss to Reeths-Puffer and put the team in the driver’s seat for the conference title. Mona Shores has three league games left with only one loss, compared to two conference losses for Reeths-Puffer and Muskegon.
“It’s a big win,” said Mona Shores coach Brad Kurth, whose team improved to 13-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play. “I’m just proud of the girls. That last loss to Reeths-Puffer was meant to be because of the lessons we learned from that game. But I think we’re done learning from losing. It’s time for us to make strides and I think that’s what we’re doing.”
But the Sailors will have to get by a tough Muskegon team next Friday before even thinking about clinching the title.
“That game on Friday could well determine who wins this conference,” Kurth said. “Muskegon could still beat us and Reeths-Puffer and still win out.”
Friday’s game was extremely close almost the entire way, with the two teams tied 15-15 after one quarter, Mona Shores leading 30-24 at halftime, and the never-say-die Rockets leading 37-36 after three.
Reeths-Puffer seemed to have the momentum in the second half after outscoring Mona Shores 13-6 in the third quarter, behind seven points from Camaryia Williams and four from Kalisa Williams.
The Sailors were plagued by foul trouble, with both Walkers collecting their third personals in the third quarter,
But Jones and Wolffis got hot in the final quarter while the Rockets went cold, allowing the hosts to bag the victory. Mona Shores outscored Reeths-Puffer 19-8 in the fourth quarter.
Wolffis had a pair of putbacks and a free throw down the stretch. Jones nailed a three-pointer with five minutes remaining, then added a layup with 2:43 left in the contest.
Jones finished with 11 points while Wolffis had seven points and eight rebounds.
Of course the Walkers played key roles as well, with Jasmyn Walker scoring six points, including a three-pointer, in the final stanza and Jordan Walker chipping in three free throws when they mattered most.
Jasmyn Walker finished with a game-high 23 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Walker had seven rebounds and four assists.
The Rockets, meanwhile, failed to score a basket in the fourth quarter, and only stayed as close as they did with eight free throws in the final minutes and 16 points from the line overall.
Reeths-Puffer (10-4,4-2) was also hurt by 13 missed free throws, including three in the fourth quarter.
Kurth said one key that Reeths-Puffer chose to guard against the Sailors’ outside shooters, leaving Wolffis and Jones to nail key buckets in the paint.
“They left the post open and our post players took offense to that,” Kurth said. “They might have taken away a few of our strengths, but the kids who don’t get the limelight as much got the job done. They’re good players.”
Reeths-Puffer coach Brandon Barry said the failure of his team to execute at key times, plus the missed free throws, were too much to overcome.
“We had the lead, we were up by one, then we just seemed to get a little bit out of whack with about 5 1/2 minutes left,” Barry said about the pivotal fourth quarter.
Camaryia Williams led the Rockets with 20 points while Kalisa Williams added 15.