By Dave Hart
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – What started out as an ugly game on Senior Night at Muskegon Catholic turned into an exciting “Battle of the Vans.”
Muskegon Catholic Central’s Erik VanFossen and Montague’s Luke VanBoxel found themselves in a second half scoring dual, combining for 35 points in the final two quarters.
But it was VanFossen who got the last laugh, scoring nine crucial points in the fourth quarter, including the last five, to lead the Crusaders to a 55-53 non-league victory Tuesday in their final home game of the season.
VanFossen had a slow first half, scoring only five points, all in the early part of the first quarter.
But he pumped in a three-pointer in the opening minute of the second half and stayed hot from there, scoring 16 of his 21 points in the third and fourth quarters.
He saved his best effort for last, scoring the last five points of the contest. He hit the go ahead bucket with 35 seconds remaining, forced a Montague turnover seconds later, then hit a free throw with three seconds left to seal the deal for MCC.
VanFossen also had 10 rebounds in the victory.
MCC coach Lamar Jordan said VanFossen had been struggling in recent games, and was assigned to guard VanBoxel, Montague’s top scorer, for motivational purposes.
He did a great job defensively, holding VanBoxel to four points in the first half. VanBoxel finished with a game high 23 points, with 19 in the second half. But by that point VanFossen had also found his scoring touch, neutralizing VanBoxel’s offensive burst.
“The coaching staff felt putting him on their best player would get him going,” Jordan said. “It worked out that way, his defense early on fed him offensively.”
Both teams came out sluggish in the first quarter. The Wildcats were 2-for-12 from the field, but MCC failed to take advantage and only led 9-8 at the buzzer.
Both teams played sloppy basketball at times, with MCC racking up 16 turnovers and Montague 15.
“Both teams were feeling each other out,” Jordan said of the ugly first half. “Our main focus was to keep VanBoxel under control.”
A strong second quarter by the Crusaders gave them an eight point lead at the half, but the Wildcats outscored MCC 21-14 in the third quarter to pull within 38-37 at the break.
Montague opened up a 51-44 lead with 3:35 left in the game, but MCC finished with an 11-2 run to steal the win.
Chase Lohman scored 13 points for Montague, including two three-pointers in the third quarter.
Montague coach Dave Osborne said his team had been playing its best basketball of the season in recent weeks, then took a step backward on Tuesday.
“I thought our defense was pathetic,” said Osborne, whose team dropped to 8-10 on the season. “It was the worst game defensively we’ve played in a month.”
“Our last two weeks had been the best we had played all season. We were in every game, win or lose, but I thought we played poorly tonight.”