Local Sports Journal

Coaches like to say that the first few minutes of the third quarter can make the difference in a tight basketball game.

That was certainly the case Thursday at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center, and it spelled doom for Muskegon Heights’ state championship dreams.

The Tigers seemed to be in good shape at halftime, grabbing a three-point lead over Pewamo-Westphalia in the Class C state semifinals.

But the Pirates opened the third quarter with a 15-3 run and ended cruising to a 54-44 victory over the Tigers.

Muskegon Heights wrapped up its season with a 21-4 record. Pewamo-Westphalia advances to Saturday’s state title game against Detroit Consortium.

Tiger coach Del Stewart said his players were pretty emotional in the first few minutes after the game, but then settled down and thought about everything they accomplished this season.

“You certainly want to be the last man standing if you can be,” Stewart told Local Sports Journal. “But we sat down after the game and recapped the year. I pointed out what we did accomplish. We made it far and brought hope to a city that had lost some of it and respect back to our program.

“We certainly did not come here with a moral victory in mind, but we don’t want to overlook the blessings we have. We realize there is a lot to still celebrate.”

Antonio Jones hit three three-pointers in the first quarter, helping Muskegon Heights grab a 17-12 edge at the first buzzer.

Aaron Sydnor scored all eight of his points in the second quarter, and Eddie Tornes added six, giving the Tigers a 27-24 halftime lead.

But the Pirates lowered the boom after halftime with its 15-3 run, sparked by Lane Simon’s six points. Pewamo-Westphalia outscored the Tigers 19-8 in the third and led 43-35 at the buzzer.

Muskegon Heights pulled within four points (43-39) with about four minutes left, but could get no closer.  Sydnor fouled out in the fourth quarter, denying the Tigers the presence of a battle-tested senior down the stretch.

The Tigers were stung by cold shooting, particularly in the second half, when they only hit 5 of 35 attempts.

“We got a lot of good looks, but for whatever reason we couldn’t get the ball to go in the hoop,” said Stewart, whose team was 15-for-63 from the floor in the game. “We missed several shots up close. We were able to get in the lane – it just wouldn’t go down.”

Jones led Muskegon Heights with 16 points while Tornes added 12. Sydnor pulled down nine rebounds.

Nick Spitzley scored a game-high 22 points for Pewamo-Westphalia.