By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – One of the more impressive winning streaks in Muskegon-area sports history has come to an end.
The Muskegon boys basketball team had strung together 31 victories in a row, punctuated by a perfect 28-0 record and Class A state championship last season.
They started this season 3-0, and had everyone wondering if they had the chance to go unbeaten again.
But the Big Reds finally came down to earth Tuesday, blowing a 20-point first half lead and dropping a 58-57 decision to East Kentwood in the Meijer Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Classic tournament at Reeths-Puffer High School.
East Kentwood’s Micah Rosser hit a 12-foot jumper with 3.1 seconds left on the clock to give the Falcons their first and only lead of the game. Muskegon called two time outs and set up for a winning shot, but the attempt fell short at the buzzer.
“You’ve got to give them credit – we quit playing and they picked up their intensity,” said Muskegon Coach Keith Guy. “Their kid hit a big shot at the end and we didn’t close the game. That’s a sign of a young team. We have to learn to do that. It’s part of the process.
“To be honest I would have liked to be 28-0 again, but we knew this was a possibility. I’m OK with it. We’ll be fine. We’ll take our medicine and get better tomorrow.”
East Kentwood, a preseason favorite in the O-K Red Conference, improved to 5-0 on the season.
Muskegon controlled the first half, building a 27-7 midway through the second quarter. East Kentwood ended the first half with a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to 27-16 at the break.
Deyonta Davis and Joeviar Kennedy paced the Big Reds in the first half with 11 and nine points, respectively.
East Kentwood was crippled by cold shooting in the first half, particularly in the second quarter, when it made only 3 of 12 attempts from the floor and went more than six minutes without a point.
The Falcons were also sloppy before halftime, turning the ball over 11 times.
“I know they were tight, playing against a team as highly touted as Muskegon, which hadn’t lost a game in basically two years,” East Kentwood Coach Jeff Anama said about his team’s first-half play. “They had the belief they could win, but that belief showed its nerves for a while.
“I think right before halftime was the key. We changed defenses and got a few key shots to go. We couldn’t do anything against their defense in the first 12 minutes.”
The Falcons regrouped at halftime and shocked the Big Reds by coming all the way back.
The Falcons hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter, including two by Brandon Fuller, but the Big Reds counterpunched effectively, hitting all seven of their shots from the floor to grab a 44-33 lead at the buzzer.
East Kentwood opened the fourth quarter with an 11-4 run, powered by three triples in the first three minutes, including two from Brent Kimbrel. The Falcons tied the score at 52-52 with 2:40 remaining and 54-54 with 2:13 left.
Muskegon went up 57-54 on a 3-pointer by Daryl Kirkland with 1:50 remaining, then led by one following a layup by East Kentwood’s Andrew Madison with 1:32 left.
The Big Reds went into a stall, killing nearly a minute off the clock before Kennedy drew a foul with 28 seconds left. He missed two free throws, setting up Rosser’s game winning jumper with a few ticks left on the clock.
The Falcons helped their cause by hitting 7 of 15 shots from the floor in the third quarter and 7 of 10 in the fourth. They had nine 3-pointers in the contest, compared to two for the Big Reds.
East Kentwood was also 9-for-9 from the charity stripe, and made five free throws down the stretch to help seal the victory.
Kennedy paced Muskegon with 21 points, Davis had 15 points and 10 rebounds while Kirkland totaled nine points.
Rosser and Kimbrel led a balanced East Kentwood scoring attack with 11 points apiece.