By Justin Haggerty
MONTAGUE – The Shelby Tigers are at it again.
Last year the Tigers made a run to the Class C state quarterfinals. That was the fourth straight year Coach Rick Zoulek’s squad won a district title and made it at least to the regional round of the state tournament.
Now that streak has been extended to five.
Shelby faced off against conference rival Mason County Central in the Class C district championship game at Montague High School Friday and ran off with a 55-33 victory.
The Tigers, now 22-2, advance to a regional final showdown with Muskegon Heights on Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian High School.
“It feels like the first one (district title),” Zoulek said after the game. “It doesn’t get old. We’ve got a special atmosphere in Shelby that I think is unlike other places.
“Our parents are so supportive and our fans are so supportive and positive and they have everything in perspective. It’s awesome. Hopefully we can keep playing a couple more (games).”
MCC took a 7-4 lead early in the contest before Shelby senior Jeff Beckman hit a three-pointer to tie it just 16 seconds later. The Tigers went on to score the next 10 points to take a 17-7 lead early in the second quarter.
The teams alternated baskets the rest of the first half with Shelby carrying a 23-14 lead into the locker room.
The Tigers outscored the Spartans 32-19 in the second half, led by Jeff Beckman with 15 points and fellow senior Danny Beckman, who scored five of his 11 points in the third quarter.
Shelby hit 11 of 13 free throws in the game while MCC completed just two of its eight opportunities.
Jeff Beckman finished with a game-high 22 points to go with 11 rebounds.
“He was much better on the boards and he had to be,” Zoulek said about Jeff Beckman. “He can dominate inside when he wants to. Sometimes he just floats around a little bit looking for rebounds and forgets how good he can be inside.”
Mason County was led by Mitch Lange with nine points and six rebounds. Ryan Mount pulled down six rebounds and had three blocks.
The Spartans finish with a 12-11 overall, including five losses by six points or less.
“It was a learning, growing season for me and I think the boys (as well),” said MCC head coach Tim Genson. “We certainly didn’t win as many games as we wanted, but I can’t say we weren’t in them. This was one of the few games we weren’t in down the stretch.”