By Dave Hart

MONTAGUE – The West Michigan Conference championship was not a factor in Tuesday’s Montague-Whitehall boys basketball game.

That was certainly the case last year, but neither team is competing for the title this season.

But the neighborhood rivalry contest was still meaningful, because Montague wanted some revenge for a 27-point defeat at the hands of Whitehall earlier this season.

Despite a slow start, the Wildcats accomplished their goal, pulling out a 60-51 victory on their home court.

Montague is now 9-6 on the season and 7-5 in league play. Whitehall fell to 10-5 and 8-4.

Montague’s Hunter Mosher looks to make the pass out of the corner. Photo/Kris Rake

“I think most importantly we faced adversity and we overcame it,” said Montague Coach Dave Osborne. “During the first half of the season I don’t think we would have been mentally tough enough to finish this game. We have grown through the course of the season.”

The Wildcats were paced by Kenyan Johnston with a game-high 22 points while Nick Stever added 15.

The Vikings held a slim 17-15 lead after the first quarter. They were led by big man Brandon Rake, who scored seven of his team-high 15 points during the opening stanza.

Whitehall expanded its lead in the second quarter,  outscoring Montague by a 15-8 margin to take a 32-23 lead at halftime.

The Vikings’ Terrell Harris scored nine of his 11 points in the second quarter.

But the Wildcats stormed back in the third quarter, closing out the frame with a 16-1 run that held Whitehall scoreless for more than five minutes.

Montague entered the fourth quarter with a 42-39 advantage.

Stever scored nine of his 15 points for Montague during the third quarter with three triples. Johnston added five points.

“That one spurt was the difference in the game,” Osborne said.

The Wildcats finished strong, scoring 18 fourth-quarter points, led by Johnston, who poured in nine during the final eight minutes.

Whitehall managed to cut its deficit to 53-51 with 3:16 remaining, after the Wildcats were handed a technical foul which led to seven straight points by the Vikings.

But Montague held on by scoring the final seven points on 7-for-8 free throw shooting.