Local Sports Journal
The Western Michigan Christian Warriors claimed sole possession of the River Valley Conference boys basketball championship with a 62-56 victory over the host Muskegon Catholic Central Crusaders.
The Warriors (12-5) finished the league slate with a 7-1 record with their lone blemish being a one-point loss to Tri-unity Christian, which has dominated the league for many years.
But on Friday night, the Warriors clinched the title outright. Senior Bernard Smith scored 21 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Senior guard Alex Rop had six rebounds, four steals and four assists. Junior Jacob Ray also reached double figures in scoring with 14 points. Sophomore Nate Dugener ignited the WMC offense in the second half with a trio of 3-pointers. He finished with 12 points.
“It feels good and worked real hard all year long,” said Smith, who averages a double-double. “We were rewarded today with a win and a conference championship.
“It feels good and I am so proud of my teammates,” Smith said.
It was easy … it never is against the Crusaders, who came into the game with just one conference victory.
WMC led 12-11 after one quarter and the game was tied at 28-all at the half. In the second quarter, Smith scored 12 points. On the other end of the floor, MCC had strong second quarters from Christian Martinez with seen of his 11 points and Ian Tyler with seven of his 17 points in the quarter.
By the end of the third quarter, WMC had a four-point lead then used a 7-0 run to start the final quarter to build a double-digit lead.
Adam Callow scored seven points in the final quarter as the Crusaders attempted to catch up. The Crusaders made 8-of-14 free throws in the final eight minutes.
Derrick Holt made a key basket underneath with 2 minutes left to push the lead to 57-50 then Smith made 1-of-2 free throws to put the game out of reach at 58-50.
“They got to a lot of loose balls,” WMC coach Kyle Mastenbrook said of the Crusaders. “It was a fight … it always is and it was a fun game to be a part of.”
“I am looking forward continuing even into next year even though they won’t be in the league,” Mastenbrook said. MCC will be moving over to the Lakes 8 next school year.
“A lot of guys contributed and a lot of guys contributed in preparing us for a physical game like this,” Mastenbrook said.
Western Michigan Christian 62, Muskegon Catholic 56
WESTERN MICHIGAN CHRISTIAN
Alex Rop 0 2-2 2, Devin Eekhoff 1 0-0 2, Derrick Holt 4 0-1 9, Jacob Ray 5 2-2 14, Bernard Smith 7 7-12 21, Sam Mast 0 2-2 2, Nate Dugener 3 3-7 12. Totals 20 16-26 62.
Christian Martinez 4 2-3 11, Ian Tyler 5 7-7 17, Adam Callow 3 4-6 12, Erik VanFossen 1 3-8 5, Lamar Jordan 1 0-2 2, Nate Jones 4 0-0 8, Savion Thompson 0 1-2 1. Totals 18 17-28 56.
WMC 12 – 16 – 17 – 17 — 62
MCC 11 – 17 – 13 – 15 – 56
3-pointers: Dugener (3), Ray (2), Holt, Martinez, Callow (2). Fouled out: Smith. Technicals: none.