By Mitch Ashcraft

MUSKEGON – Before Tuesday, the Muskegon Big Reds had not played a game in 11 days.

And Tuesday’s game was only their second of the season.

Their rustiness was pretty obvious. They shot only 36 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 12 times.

Muskegon’s Anthony Bethea III slashes baseline against No. 24 Drew Van Andel. Photo/Tim Reilly

Yet they still managed to grab a 45-37 victory over a good Grand Haven squad in non-league action at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium.

That means the Big Reds will probably be pretty tough to beat once they get a few more games under their belts.

“I knew these first couple games would be this way,” said Muskegon Coach Keith Guy, who has a lot of players who were late in joining the team this fall, due to their commitment to the football team, which advanced to the state finals.

“With football there was no doubt about it. I knew we wouldn’t be sharp offensively. We were bad, we were awful offensively. We have weapons and you will see that more towards January.

“Grand Haven played well, but good teams find a way to win.”

At least one Big Red – senior forward Markell Jackson – appeared to be closer to midseason form. He posted a triple-double with 12 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks. He also knocked down a huge 3-pointer in the fourth quarter to stop a 13-0 Grand Haven run.

Willie Shanks Jr. goes for the loose ball against Grand Haven guard Zac Holman. Photo/Tim Reilly

Jackson’s triple sent Muskegon on a 10-1 run that sealed the victory.

“He played well,” Guy said about Jackson’s performance. “There were times he didn’t play well, but he made some big shots and got a triple-double. He did good.”

The Big Reds jumped out to a 16-11 lead after a sluggish first quarter. Jermayne Golidy paced Muskegon in the first eight minutes with six points.

Muskegon’s defense was effective in the second quarter, keeping Grand Haven from hitting a field goal for the first 6:35 of the frame. Grand Haven’s defense was just as good, holding the Big Reds to just six points in the second.

Muskegon led 22-14 with 1:25 left when Grand Haven’s Kellum Bridgeforth hit a mid- range jumper, then stole the ball and drove the length of the floor for a layup at the buzzer, making the score 22-18 at halftime.

The third quarter involved much of the same, with little scoring and a lot of turnovers on both sides. Muskegon pulled ahead by 11 points, but Clay Landsman hit a triple for the Bucs in the closing seconds cut their deficit to eight.

The Big Reds collected field goals from Jacorey Sullivan and Willie Shanks early in the fourth quarter to grab a game-high 12-point lead. Then Grand Haven made a game of it, breaking loose for a 13-1 run to take a 36-35 lead with 3:40 left in the game.

But Jackson answered with his big triple, and the Big Reds pulled away down the stretch to improve to 2-0 on the season.

“They (Muskegon) hit a couple big shots,” said Grand Haven Coach Greg Immink. “They came up with 50-50 balls at the end, good teams do that. That is not a mistake thing, that’s a toughness thing. They are a great team and when you play against those teams you have to be perfect.”

Golidy finished with 11 points for the Big Reds.

Ross Koella had 11 points and seven rebounds for Grand Haven, which fell to 3-1 on the season.