By Dave Hart

FRUITPORT – Cold shooting could have cost the Muskegon Heights Tigers their second straight district championship.

The Tigers only shot 24 percent during the first half in their Division 4 district title game against Muskegon Catholic on 6-for-25 shooting, resulting in a 21-21 tie at halftime.

But they found their range in the second half, shooting 53 percent, and pulled away for a 56-43 victory at Fruitport Calvary Christian High School.

The Tigers, who have now won nine games in a row, advance to Tuesday’s Division 4 regional semifinals against New Buffalo at Mendon High School.

Arlester Sims skies in for the bucket while MCC’s Ansgar Reich takes the charge. Photo/Michael Banka

“We have a lot of respect for Muskegon Catholic, and some nights it just don’t go your way,” said Muskegon Heights Coach Dale Stewart. “We played sluggish during the first half, and it was not our type of basketball. But we survived and it feels good to advance to the next round.

“I challenged them at halftime and told them I felt like we were playing in the twilight zone, and I wanted to push and motivate them.”

Arlester Sims paced the Tigers with a game-high 21 points, 10 of which were scored during the third quarter, sparking the Muskegon Heights offense.

“I wanted to set him up to be in any position to get him to the basket,” said Stewart about Sims’ performance during the third quarter.

“We knew that it was going to be a tough game and we had to be prepared,” said Sims, who is in his senior season. “I felt that we needed to stop shooting and take the ball to the rack.”

Kevon Washington and Romeo Blackshire added 10 points each for the Tigers while Lamonte Townsend added nine.

The Tigers trailed 10-7 after the first quarter and only made three of their 11 shots. They managed to tie the game 21-21 at halftime despite making just six first-half baskets.

The Tigers largely controlled the second half, outscoring MCC 14-10 during the third quarter and 21-12 in the fourth frame.

Heights led 35-31 after three quarters. The Crusaders scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter and led 39-35, but the Tigers outscored them 21-4 the rest of the way.

Blackshire had six points in the fourth for the Tigers while Townsend was 4-for-4 from the line.

The Crusaders were led by Jared Dugener with 19 points, with 11 coming from the free throw line. Andre Watson II added 11 points while Seth Arends totaled 10 for MCC.