By Andrew Johnson
But that’s exactly what the Mona Shores girls basketball team accomplished on Friday night, defeating Reeths-Puffer 47-38 in the Class A district championship game at Grand Haven High School.
It wasn’t easy. The showdown between the two O-K Black Conference rivals was tied 27-27 after three quarters.
But the Sailors stole the game in the fourth quarter, the same way they did against the Rockets in last year’s tournament, and in the final regular season game a week ago.
Mona Shores will face Grand Rapids Christian in regional action on Tuesday night at Hudsonville.
“I am so proud of the effort,” said Mona Shores Coach Brad Kurth, whose team improved to 20-3 and won its second straight district title. “They (the players) really were spent. It’s hot in here and a tough place to play.”
The biggest hero for the Sailors was also the youngest – freshman Alyza Winston.
She led all scorers with 22 points, and said after the game that she was motivated to make sure the seniors went out with a district title.
“It means a lot to win and I made sure I was playing a lot for my seniors tonight, because I knew how much it would mean for them to get another championship before they were done,” Winston said.
Winston came ready to play, hitting her first three shots and scoring seven of the eleven Sailor points in the first quarter.
But Reeths-Puffer counterpunched effectively and led 13-11 at the end of the first quarter and 21-20 at halftime.
The Sailors had a potential problem when Winston drew her second foul early in the second quarter. Kurth pulled her for a short time, but she went back in and remained effective without fouling again.
“She’s a young player, so you take her out to have her collect her thoughts,” Kurth said. “She may be a freshman, but she’s not an inexperienced basketball player. This is playoffs, this is win or go home. and so I can’t do that (bench Winston) at this point in the season.”
Both teams struggled to score in the third quarter, leaving the game tied 27-27 heading into the fourth.
“Offensively in the third quarter they had seven and we had six, that was the quarter I was most disappointed in, because I thought we could have methodically pulled away,” said Reeths-Puffer head coach Brandon Barry.
The Sailors took control with a 20-11 advantage in the final eight minutes.
Junior standout Jordan Walker and Winston combined for all 20 of the fourth quarter points to put the Rockets away.
The Sailors opened the quarter with a 12-3 run, sparked by a 3-pointer and cutting layup by Winston and a triple from Walker.
Walker totaled nine of her 14 points in the fourth quarter.
With 25 seconds left and the score 43-35, Rocket guard Elysia Mattos hit a three-pointer from the top of the key to cut the deficit to five.
But the Rockets were unable to foul the Sailors for about 12 seconds, which allowed too much time to run off the clock and killed any hope for a rally.
Reeths-Puffer was led by Artrese Williams with 11 points and Delaney Bolles with nine points and nine rebounds.
Walker finished with eight rebounds and five assists for Mona Shores.