By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – Some people might have wondered if the Muskegon Big Reds were overdoing it a bit by playing two challenging games in two nights.
On Friday they beat a good Zeeland East team in a key league matchup, then on Saturday hosted a quality squad from Chicago Whitney Young.
But there was a method to the Big Reds’ scheduling madness. They wanted to simulate state tournament conditions, when two wins in two days against good teams is necessary to win it all on the final weekend.
They passed the test with flying colors.
The Big Reds looked like they were playing just another opponent Saturday, grabbing a commanding first quarter lead and cruising to a 76-52 victory over Whitney Young in front of a packed house at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium.
“Everything we do is geared toward the tournament,” said Muskegon Coach Keith Guy, explaining the scheduling of back-to-back games. “In order to win the state championship you have to win on Friday and you have to win on Saturday.”
The Big Reds, defending Class A state champions, won their 10th straight game and improved to 13-1 on the season. Whitney Young, which has played many more games this season, fell to 17-7.
“They would do very well in Chicago,” said Whitney Young Coach Tyrone Slaughter. “If they were in Chicago they would be in the top two or three teams. That’s a really good basketball team. They played exceptionally well tonight.”
The contest capped a special weekend for Muskegon senior Joeviair Kennedy, who scored a game-high 21 points, dished out seven assists, and surpassed the 1,000-point career mark.
Kennedy scored 26 points Friday against Zeeland East.
“He’s everything to this team,” Guy said. “He’s unselfish, he could have had 26 or 27 points but he dished it off to teammates. He just plays within himself all the time.”
Kennedy had the hot hand in the first quarter Saturday, scoring nine points as the Big Reds raced to an 18-8 lead after one quarter.
Whitney Young hurt itself with cold shooting early on, hitting only 4 of 13 shots from the floor in the first quarter.
Muskegon’s 6-10 All-State Center Deyonta Davis got hot in the second quarter, pumping in eight points, including several on powerful dunks, to help the Big Reds grab a 35-22 halftime lead.
Kennedy had six points in the second quarter and 15 in the first half.
Whitney Young opened the second half with a 6-0 run and pulled within seven points, but never got any closer.
Muskegon answered with a 14-4 run in just over two minutes to take control for good. Daryl Kirkland sparked the uprising with a triple and a layup, Jason Loera added a layup, Michael Littlejohn hit a 3-pointer and Kennedy hit two buckets to complete the damage.
The Big Reds led 54-38 after three quarters.
Davis pumped in 10 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter to help Muskegon seal the victory. He also had 20 rebounds on the night.
The Big Reds hit 32 of 53 shots from the floor in the game for a sizzling 60 percent. Whitney Young shot only 38 percent. The Big Reds also had a 39-17 rebounding advantage.
Kirkland and Littlejohn finished with 10 and 8 points, respectively, for Muskegon.
Joe Toye led Whitney Young with 13 points.