By Lucas Rains
Local Sports Journal

WHITEHALL – It was a two-headed monster that propelled the Shelby Tigers to a road victory against West Michigan Conference foe Whitehall on Tuesday.

Shelby’s Jeffery Beckman and Spencer Landis each scored in double digits en route to a 60-52 win.

Beckman led Shelby with 21 points and Landis chipped in 12 to help the Tigers preserve its perfect 5-0 (3-0 WMC) record.

“(Beckman) has to realize that his strong point is in there on the inside,” Shelby head coach Rick Zoulek said. “In the second half, he stayed in there and was a force defensively, as well as offensively, and that’s what we need from him. He came through in the second half for us.”

In the opening quarter, both offenses were hitting their shots. After a back-and-forth game in the early minutes, the Tigers put together a run. With the game at 8-7 midway through the first, Shelby’s 5-0 run, highlighted by a Landis triple and a Beckman jumper, put them up 13-7.

Landis had the hot hand in the first quarter with five straight points with 2 minutes left in the quarter to put the Tigers up by as much as eight points. Landis finished with 10 first-quarter points.

It was a balanced attack for the Vikings, with six different players scored their 15 first-quarter points, but would trail Shelby 20-15 after the first.

Early in the second, Shelby held a three-point advantage, but a 7-0 run forced Whitehall head coach Nate Aardema to call a timeout. Caleb Anderson got things going with a jumper high off the glass, then Landis made a putback layup, and finally Anderson hit a 3 to put the Tigers up 29-19.

However, with every Shelby run, Whitehall slowly climbed back. Keenan Aylor’s shots started to fall in the second quarter as his nine points led all scorers in the quarter, and helped the Vikings get back into the game.

In the final seconds of the first half, Shelby’s Lane Stotler was fouled with the game tied at 31. Stotler hit both free throws and the Tigers felt good about going into halftime with a slim lead.

Whitehall’s CJ Watson had other ideas. Watson caught the inbound pass and drained a halfcourt shot to give the Vikings its first lead of the game, 34-33, and some much-needed momentum at the break.

Aylor remained hot to start the second half, swishing a 3-pointer in the first possession of the third quarter. However, a 9-0 Tigers’ surge quickly erased the Vikings shortlived advantage. The run was all Beckman and Stotler, scoring five and four points, respectively.

Whitehall was limited to five third-quarter points and Shelby owned a 44-39 lead going into the final quarter.

Despite leading the Tigers in the first half, Landis was scoreless in the second half, due, in part, to foul trouble. He picked up his fourth early in the final quarter and eventually fouled out.

“Well, the kids on the bench are going to come in and play hard, it’s just a matter of getting that chemistry,” Zoulek said. “It’s early in the year and it just throws you out of whack a little bit. Defensively, it doesn’t bother me as much as offensively when we get in those situations.”

Aylor’s 3-pointer at the 4:20 mark brought the Vikings within three points at 47-44, but that would be as close as they would get.

Beckman was a dominant force down low throughout the second. He made 5-of-6 free throws and finished with 21 points, 10 in the final quarter.

Anderson and Michael James each added eight points for Shelby.

Aylor led the Vikings with 19 points, 12 of which came in the first half. Noah Trombley added eight points.