By Tom Kendra
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – The showdown is set at the Meijer Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame Basketball Classic.
Muskegon and East Kentwood both rolled to victories on Monday’s opening night of the 13th annual event at Reeths-Puffer High School, setting up a battle of unbeatens in Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. tourney finale.
“It’s a great matchup,” said Muskegon coach Keith Guy, shortly after his team’s 59-19 rout of Lansing Eastern on Monday. “They are dangerous because they are so athletic and well-coached. We have a very worthy opponent in front of us.”
Muskegon (3-0), the defending Class A state champions, against East Kentwood (4-0) shapes up to be one of the top matchups in West Michigan all season long.
East Kentwood showed off its amazing athletic ability, swarming a previously unbeaten Birmingham Brother Rice team. The Falcons built a 22-8 lead after one quarter and 35-14 at halftime, before Brother Rice rallied in the fourth quarter for a 66-59 final.
The Falcons, who are coached by former Mona Shores head coach Jeff Anama, were led by three players in double figures – ∫ with 12 points and Brent Kimbrel and Micah Rosser with 11 points each.
Dominic Downs buried four 3-pointers and led Brother Rice with 14 points. Drew Gallagher scored 13 points and Kevin Hayes added 11 for the Warriors, who outscored Kentwood 45-31 in the second half to make the final score respectable.
Then it was the Big Reds’ turn to put on a show.
Muskegon, buoyed by a big crowd which filled up the lower bowl at Reeths-Puffer’s spacious field house, jumped ahead early and never looked back against undermanned Lansing Eastern, which only dressed eight players.
The Big Reds took control with a full-court press, keyed by 6-4 Joeviair “Hip-Hop” Kennedy in the front court and 6-10 Deyonta Davis in the backcourt. That combination proved lethal as Muskegon rolled to a 35-6 halftime lead.
Kennedy led all scorers with 17 points, along with nine rebounds.
Davis, who has committed to Michigan State and had eight blocked shots in the first half alone, finished with 12 points, 15 rebounds and 11 blocked shots. Linwood Lee scored 11 points and Jamel French had four steals.
Muskegon continually threw fresh backcourt players at the Quakers, who wilted under the constant pressure. The Big Reds’ defense produced 14 steals and 13 blocked shots.
Zeale McCullough scored 11 points and was the lone Lansing Eastern player with more than four points.
The game went to a running clock in the fourth quarter, as many of the 2,300 fans headed to the exits – presumably to save energy for the Tuesday night showdown of unbeatens.
Muskegon and East Kentwood also played in the Meijer MASHF final game the past two years, with Kentwood winning 85-77 in 2012 and Muskegon pulling out a 69-63 victory last year.
The key for Kentwood will be trying to find a way to mitigate Davis, the shot-blocking machine with the giant wingspan who changed Monday’s game on both ends of the floor.
“It’s easy to get open looks with him in there,” said Kennedy, a football and basketball standout for the Big Reds. “When they double-down on him, everyone just fills the lanes.”