By Justin Haggerty
NORTON SHORES – Mona Shores has won the O-K Black Conference girls basketball title two years in a row, and now controls its own destiny in its quest for a three-peat.
Entering Friday’s action, the Sailors, along with Muskegon and Reeths-Puffer, each had one conference loss.
Mona Shores’ lone defeat came against Muskegon, giving the Sailors incentive to gain revenge in Friday’s rematch and get a leg up in the conference race.
They took full advantage, relying on stingy defense and opportune scoring to pull out a 55-34 victory n their home court over the Big Reds.
Mona Shores improved to 12-3 overall and 5-1 in the O-K Black, with a showdown against co-leader Reeths-Puffer looming at the end of February.
“I felt like we had a good plan last time we played them (a 69-56 loss), but we really didn’t execute it,” said Mona Shores Coach Brad Kurth. “I don’t think the kids had the kind of maturity to understand the situation there.
“You have to play 32 minutes, every possession matters. I felt like we did that on 98 percent of our possessions tonight. For the most part this was by far our best game of the year.”
The Mona Shores defense did not allow more than nine points in any single quarter of the contest. Sailor guard Shamara Tumblin contributed to the strong defensive performance by holding Muskegon standout Mardrekia Cook, a Michigan State recruit, to just 12 points.
“Hats off to them for their defensive game plan,” said Muskegon Coach Rodney Walker. “I thought it was very effective in regard to making sure (Mardrekia) works. They made her work extremely hard tonight.”
The Sailors were down 7-3 just two minutes into the game, but freshman guard Alyza Winston put a stop to that, hitting a three-pointer and scoring the next seven points to give Shores a lead they never relinquished.
Muskegon shot just 22-percent from the field but pulled down 29 offensive rebounds in the losing effort.
The Sailors entered the fourth quarter with a 35-27 lead before pulling away, outscoring the Big Reds 20-7 in the final frame.
Winston scored eight of her game-high 20 points down the stretch, and Jordan Walker added six points to help ice the game.
Walker finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists and Winston added three steals and three assists to her 20 points.
Cook had seven rebounds, two assists, and two steals to go with her team-high 12 points.
“They’re a great, great team,” Kurth said about Muskegon. “I feel like the first game, they played their best game. The second game, we played our best game. I think whoever comes to this game in districts, if we’re fortunate enough to meet, will see an amazing game of basketball.”