By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Taking on the top-rated boys team in the state in the district semifinals means two things: One, you probably don’t stand a chance. And two, if you play your cards right and get a healthy share of good luck, you could pull off the upset of the century.
So it was Wednesday night for the Reeths-Puffer Rockets, taking on No. 1-ranked Muskegon, who also happens to be hosting the district tourney, having won just three games on the season and sporting a substantial weight, height, and skill disadvantage to the Big Reds.
The final score, a 74-41 Muskegon win, says it all, right?
And yet, though never really threatening the upset, the Rockets played the Big Reds pretty darn well, keeping the score close until Muskegon finally started rolling late in the first half.
For Muskegon head coach Keith Guy, the win is good but his team’s effort, especially by his starting five wasn’t up to the team’s standards.
“It’s disappointing,” said Guy. “Give (Reeths-Puffer) credit. They came in here with nothing to lose and they played like it.”
Muskegon struggled early, failing to hit its first four shots, and up 3-2 four minutes into the contest, Guy called a timeout to inject some life into his lineup. Rocket junior guard DeAngelo Williams’ three-pointer a minute later tied it at 5-5, and it looked like Reeths-Puffer just might stand a chance.
“If we played Muskegon a 1,000 times, they’d probably beat us,” admitted Rocket head coach David Ingles. “But if we get lucky once, we can beat them. Anyone can. That was our mentality. And I thought we played fantastic to start the game.”
Then Muskegon outscored the Rockets 26-6 to finish the first half and lead 31-11 at the break. A 23-9 edge in the third quarter sealed the Big Red win. The coaches emptied their respective rosters in the fourth, and the starters on both benches laughed and enjoyed their time together in the rapidly shrinking season.
Of course, the Rockets’ season is over.
“I’m excited,” said Ingles. ‘Even though we only had three wins, we really feel like we are in a better place right now than last year at this time. For long periods of time tonight, we had three sophomore and a freshman out on the floor. We knew we wouldn’t be able to turn it around in a year at Reeths-Puffer. We have some work to do but I’m happy about the direction we are in.”
And the Big Reds move on to Friday’s district final game against Grand Rapids Union, who ran away from Kenowa Hills in the fourth quarter to win the early semifinal game 58-47.
Muskegon is looking for its third victory of the season over the Red Hawks.
“We have to play to our game, play to our strengths,” said Guy. “Defend home court. Let’s toss it up.”
Starter Joeviair Kennedy and bench player Blake Andrews led Muskegon with 13 points each, with junior Jason Loera totaling 10 points, and senior Jalen Kilgore, old No. 0, added seven in the victory.
Rocket sophomore guard DeAndre Oakes-Owens led his team with 12 points, and junior DeAngelo Williams added seven for Reeths-Puffer.