By Steve Gunn
NORTON SHORES – The first half of Friday’s Muskegon-Mona Shores girls basketball showdown was pretty darned ugly.
There were enough missed shots, missed free throws, turnovers and fouls to fill up a scorebook. Neither team looked very good, and the Big Reds marched off at halftime with a precarious one-point lead.
Somebody had to take control of the contest, and it didn’t turn out to be one of the likely candidates – Muskegon stars Alyza Winston or Daz’sha Day, or Mona Shores standout Ryleigh Wehler.
Instead it was Big Reds junior forward Diynasti Dowell, who came into the game averaging seven points per game.
She scored 15 points, including 14 in the critical second half, to lead the Big Reds to an important 50-36 victory at Mona Shores.
Muskegon is now 10-2 on the season, and continues to lead the O-K Black Conference with a 6-0 record. The Sailors are 4-2 in the conference.
“We knew she was capable of that,” said Muskegon Coach Rodney Walker about Dowell. “Inside she provides some offense for us. I was really impressed with her. We needed that. We had to do something different, and she stepped up.
“She’s been doing some other things for us this season, and sacrificing her game so we can get the wins. But tonight she really stepped up offensively for us.”
The victory was sweet for the Big Reds and Coach Walker. It may have marked a turning point in the O-K Black championship race, which Mona Shores has dominated in recent years.
It also provided revenge for last year’s Class A district semifinal game, when Muskegon fell to the Sailors by one point on a controversial call at the end.
“This does feel good,” Walker said. “Shores has been at the top of the league, and they are still the king of the hill as far as I’m concerned. We are still trying to build a program, but it was a big step for us tonight.”
Winston, playing her first game back at Mona Shores since transferring to Muskegon this year, had a pair of triples and eight points in the first quarter to help the Big Reds snag a 14-10 lead after one quarter.
Mona Shores adjusted a bit to the Big Reds’ press and played better in the second quarter, outscoring the visitors 9-4 and pulling within a point, 20-19, at halftime.
The third quarter was when Dowell took over.
She started driving the lane, drawing fouls and converted five of six free throws. She also knocked down a big 3-pointer and hit another bucket.
Dowell totaled 10 points in the third, allowing the Big Reds to outscore the Sailors 16-7 and take a decisive 36-36 lead at the third buzzer.
Dowell added four more free throws in the fourth quarter, and the Big Reds converted 12 of 14 from the line as a team, to ice the victory.
“Our guards were having trouble getting to the basket and attacking, and they weren’t calling the fouls, so they said we had to work inside, and I had to step up my game and work in the post,” Dowell said.
When asked about her calm demeanor at the free throw line, where she made 10 of 14 attempts in the , Dll justid, “I love free throws. It’s my favorite part of the game.”
Winston finished with 16 points for Muskegon before fouling out late in the game.
Wehler totaled 16 points for the Sailors, including 11 in the first half, and made 6 of 7 free throws.