By Mitchell Boatman

NORTON SHORES – After 12 minutes of play, it appeared that the young Mona Shores boys basketball team could take Muskegon down to the wire.

The Big Reds led by just four points at halftime, and the Sailors were plotting an upset.

But Willie Shanks Jr. had other plans. The senior wing came alive with 17 points in the second half to lead Muskegon to a 63-49 win.

Muskegon, which started the season slowly, is now 8-3 overall and 6-0 in the O-K Black Conference. Mona Shores drops to 4-7 and 3-3 in conference play.

“We were playing lazy the whole first half,” Shanks said. “Coach got on us in the locker room. We just turned it on. Everybody turned it on.”

Muskegon’s Willie Shanks Jr. makes the no-look pass. Photo/TIm Reilly

“He played with a lot of passion,” Muskegon head coach Keith Guy said of Shanks’ performance. “He did it tonight. I wish we all would have done that.”

Despite the win, Guy was unimpressed with his team, to say the least.

“They (Mona Shores) deserved to win tonight, as bad as we played,” the coach said. “This wasn’t the team I’ve coached the last couple of weeks. We’re better than that.”

Mona Shores led 6-4 early on the strength of two three-pointers, but didn’t connect on another triple for the next 14 minutes. Muskegon led 10-6 at the end of one.

The game was tied 16-16 with under two minutes left in the half. Muskegon then rattled off seven straight points before Mona Shores’ Jarvis Walker hit a buzzer-beating three to make it 23-19 at the break.

“I thought we sleep-walked through the whole first half,” Guy said. “We played with no fight, no intensity.”

Shanks came out in attack mode in the third quarter, scoring nine of Muskegon’s 19 points. He added eight points in the fourth as well, with six of those coming at the foul line.

“First one to the bucket,” Shanks said of his aggressive approach. “If they’re walking back on defense, we have to be running.”

The Big Reds made 25 foul shots – roughly 40 percent of their points – but missed 13 shots as well.

“We weren’t focused at the line,” Guy said. “We play again tomorrow, and we better fix it or we’re going to be in trouble.”

Shanks knows his team needs to be better, but is confident they’ll bounce back.

“It was just a bad night tonight – that’s all it was,” he said. “We just need a good night’s sleep and we’ll be good tomorrow.”

Shanks finished with 21 points and 11 rebounds, both game highs. Eonte Tornes added 13 points and De’Andre Carter Jr. netted 12.

Ben Rosenthal led Mona Shores with 14 points. Jarvis Walker added 11 and James Gilbert scored 10 and grabbed seven boards.