By Nate Thompson
HOLLAND – There’s no telling what might have happened if the no-call had been called on Tuesday night.
Muskegon junior guard Jarvis Walker drew a lot of contact on his body on a corner three-point attempt with under 10 seconds remaining in the Big Reds’ regional semifinal game against East Kentwood at Holland West Ottawa High School.
If a foul had been called, Walker would have gone to the line with a chance to pull the Big Reds within one point with about six seconds remaining. But it wasn’t called.
Instead East Kentwood standout Ja’moni Jones drew a whistle on his dribble up court, right after the non-call. He sank both foul shots, just like he did on three other trips to the foul line in the fourth quarter, sealing the deal in East Kentwood’s 68-62 upset win over Muskegon.
Muskegon, which had its 18-game winning streak snapped, ends its season with a 21-4 record. East Kentwood improves to 15-8 and advances to Thursday’s regional championship against Hudsonville or Grand Rapids Northview.
“I don’t know how you miss that,” said Muskegon Coach Keith Guy, whose bench howled in protest after the non-call. “It’s blatant, but it is what it is. (East Kentwood) made some big ones down the stretch. They shot it well. There were times when we weren’t trying to foul and we sent them to the line and they made us pay.”
Neither team had more than a five-point lead throughout the first half, and the Falcons held onto a razor-thin 27-26 advantage at the half.
But East Kentwood came out on fire to open the third quarter, going on a 10-2 run, thanks to some surprising long-range shots from senior Christopher Brown. The backcourt of Jones and Ryel Daye are the Falcons’ big scorers, but Brown, who had 20 points in the game, gave them a nice boost.
The Falcons held a 43-33 lead midway the third when the Big Reds dialed up the intensity level and began to attack the basket.
Muskegon went on a 12-1 spurt in the closing three minutes of the third quarter, culminated by a tough drive and bank shot from senior guard De’Andre Carter with two seconds remaining. That gave the Big Reds a 45-44 lead entering the fourth.
“It was all mental and all about heart,” Carter said, who totaled 13 points, five rebounds and four assists in his last high school game. “I love my teammates. We all got each other’s backs. That’s where it comes from. Having each other’s backs and going to war with each other.”
But Muskegon again struggled from the floor to open the fourth, going without a field goal for three minutes, until Carter made a slashing lefty layup to tie the game at 50-50.
Then the Falcons’ started drawing fouls in the open court. They started shaky at the free throw line, splitting a pair on their first two trips, beginning at the 3:32 mark, but Jones’ steady hand helped them go 10-for-12 the rest of the way.
The Falcons had a 63-56 lead with a minute left. The Big Reds clawed to within 64-62 when Carter sank a pair of free throws with 26 seconds remaining. But Jones answered when he got a step on his defender on a drive and made a tough bank shot while falling out of bounds to put East Kentwood up by four.
Jones’ final two free throws, after the non-call, sealed the deal for East Kentwood. He led all scorers with 27 points.
“They made some shots,” Guy said. “They showed they can get hot. With us, we missed some timely free throws, layups, gave up some offensive rebounds and 50-50 balls. Those things come back to haunt you.”
Walker finished with 23 points and six rebounds for the Big Reds, while fellow junior guard Vern Nash added 12. They will be part of a deep and talented Muskegon squad next season.
But Guy was more concerned about his three departing seniors – Carter, De’airrus Ware and Prince Rush – who had to end their careers with a disappointing loss.
“It’s the hardest because of how good of kids they are,” Guy said. “You hate to see kids go out like this. That’s the downfall of this game. It ends so abruptly. My heart goes out to those three.”