By Nate Thompson
MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – It was a new and exciting experience for Muskegon senior De’airrus Ware Tuesday evening.
He’s played before at Muskegon High School, as a visitor for Reeths-Puffer. But with his decision to transfer to Muskegon for his senior season, this was his first time he sported the Big Reds’ maroon and white at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium.
“It was fun tonight,” Ware said after he recorded 15 points, five rebounds and three blocks in the Big Reds’ 62-43 victory over visiting Grand Haven. “I’ve played here as a visitor and with the student section it was challenging. But now being on (the home) team, it was motivating. I enjoyed the feeling.”
After his team’s dreadful offensive showing in its season-opening loss to Rockford, Muskegon coach Keith Guy said the “lid came off the rim” for his Big Reds, helping them turn a 23-13 halftime lead into a comfortable 43-25 advantage entering the fourth.
Ware’s diverse bag of offensive tricks was a key in the sharp one-game improvement, Guy said.
“He’s capable of being the guy for us,” Guy said. “He’s so smooth with the ball in his hands. He can do it all. He showed he can step back and hit the three, he’s got a mid-range game, he can put it on the floor, he can pass and he’s an unbelievable athlete.
“He can finish where no one else can go.”
Ware showed off his tremendous leaping ability in flashes throughout the game. After a cold first quarter for the Big Reds, who only led 7-4 at the first buzzer, he provided a spark on the defensive end in the second quarter with a pair of huge blocks on two very different players – the Bucs’ 5-foot-9 point guard Casey Constant, and later on 6-7 center Jon Elias.
Ware also had seven points in the second quarter, when Muskegon opened up its lead to 10 points.
The rest of the Big Reds started to warm up from the field after the break. They connected on four triples in the third, including a pair from junior Cameron Martinez, stretching their lead to 18 points.
“Everyone knew after the Rockford game that we had to step it up,” Ware said. “All of us stayed out there every day after practice getting some shots in. We shot the ball better tonight. Our rebounding was good, but it can still get better.”
Ware really got the crowd rocking with under three minutes left in the fourth when he found an open path to the rim and threw down an impressive dunk to give the Big Reds a 55-37 advantage.
“That’s the best dunk I’ve had since (the) Grand Haven (game) last year when I was with Reeths- Puffer,” he said.
Junior guard Samarri Knox connected on a trio of three-pointers and finished with 11 points for Muskegon, while Martinez contributed 10 points. Overall, Muskegon shot a respectable 44 percent from the field and canned seven three-pointers.
Grand Haven’s offensive problems continued from their second-half drought at Spring Lake, when head coach Greg Immink said his squad simply failed to execute.
The Bucs failed to convert on several easy looks in the paint, and connected on just 3 of 12 from deep range. Freshman Owen Worthington hit all three of his three-point attempts and finished with nine points.
Constant led the Bucs with 12 points and four rebounds.
Grand Haven falls to 1-2 overall.