By Mitchell Boatman
ZEELAND – Another day, another dominating performance for Muskegon’s Alyza Winston.
“Alyza did a great job offensively tonight controlling the tempo,” said Muskegon head coach Rodney Walker. “It’s pretty consistent with what she’s done all year.”
While Winston lit up the scoreboard for Muskegon, the Big Reds’ team defense was also key to the victory.
The Fighting Scots have seven players who are taller than Muskegon’s tallest player, but the Big Reds buckled down on the interior.
“We practiced that in practice, with our posts going extra hard to make sure we were ready for that,” Winston said. “I think Kailyn Nash, when she came in, did an amazing job.”
“I thought we did a pretty good job defensively tonight,” Walker said. “We knew they were going to be tough. I think our girls really dug in, did a great job and stuck to the game plan.”
Muskegon (22-2) advances to the regional finalS to take on Hudsonville (17-7) on Thursday at Zeeland East.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Walker said. “We have high expectations. We have to win the regional first, and that’s the first focus for right now.“
While the game was pretty close, Muskegon never trailed.
The Big Reds ran out to a 9-2 lead in the first two minutes behind seven points from Winston. Muskegon led 17-11 at the end of one.
The teams traded baskets in the second quarter, with Muskegon gaining a 12-11 edge in the quarter and grabbing a 29-22 lead at the half.
Winston scored 10 of the Big Reds’ points in the quarter and 19 in the half.
The Fighting Scots made a run early in the third after Muskegon center Diynasti Dowell picked up her fourth foul. Caledonia scored seven straight points to draw within one point, 34-33.
But Muskegon responded with a 9-2 run to end the quarter, led by Winston and Daz’sha Day, to lead 43-35 headed into the fourth.
“I know that when we lose one of our better teammates, that means I have to step up,” Winston said. “That’s how I think of it, that I have to play for two players now.”
Winston and Day helped seal the win with key free-throws down the stretch. Ten of the Big Reds’ 15 points in the fourth quarter came at the line. Caledonia threatened a comeback, but never got closer than four points.
Winston, Day and Dowell were the only Big Reds to score. Day finished with 16 points and Dowell had nine.
Samantha Gehris had 17 points to lead Caledonia. Anna LoMonaco added 15 and Amiyah VanderGeld scored 10.