By Mitchell Boatman

MUSKEGON — The Muskegon boys basketball team has not lost back-to-back games since January 2016.

Jarvis Walker lofts a shot over Reeths-Puffer forward No. 34 Kendall Smith. Photo/Tim Smith

The Big Reds were determined to keep that proud streak alive on Friday, despite facing a major challenge against a good Reeths-Puffer squad.

Coming off a loss to Grand Blanc last Saturday, the Big Reds righted the ship with a hard fought 64-55 victory over the Rockets in O-K Black Conference action at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium.

The Rockets pulled within 56-53 with 2:17 to play, but the Big Reds held on for the win by going a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final two minutes.

“It was kind of a funky game,” said Muskegon head coach Keith Guy. “I was proud of my guys. Everybody wants to win by 30 or 40, but we handled ourselves right tonight. We fought through some adversity and came out on top, so I’m proud of my guys.”

The Big Reds got a boost from big man Billie Roberts, who missed several weeks earlier in the season due to an injury, including the first game against Reeths-Puffer. Roberts scored 14 points, including the first four of the game for Muskegon.

“Billie, you saw him, he’s a force,” Guy said. “The first couple plays were going to Billie, no doubt about it.

“He’s a four-year varsity player. When he’s out of the lineup it hurts. He does so many things that don’t show up in the stat sheet.”

Roberts was proud of his effort.

“I think I dominated,” the senior said. “I couldn’t have done it without the help of my teammates. A lot of teams don’t use a lot of the post really. We try to work inside to outside, outside to inside. We try to mix it up and do both.”

Roberts said being back out on the court for the rivalry game was meaningful for him.

No. 35 Billie Roberts turns to get back on defense after scoring for the Big Reds. Photo/Tim Smith

“It felt really good,” he said. “It’s my senior year, I missed a lot of the first conference games. Just to be back in general is a blessing.”

Muskegon used a 10-0 run in the first quarter to pull ahead 16-9 at the first buzzer. Reeths-Puffer countered with a run in the second quarter to pull as close as four points at 26-22, but the Big Reds closed with a 5-2 run to lead 31-24 halftime lead.

The teams battled back and forth in the third quarter, with Reeths-Puffer closing the gap to 43-39.

Muskegon led 54-46 with 3:27 to play before a 7-2 Rockets run, capped by a long triple by Kaleb Mitchelson, cut the Big Reds’ lead to 56-53.

A basket by Roberts and six free throws closed out the win. Reeths-Puffer managed just two points in the final two minutes.

Emcee Williams led the comeback attempt for the Rockets in the fourth, scoring 11 of his team’s 16 points.

Jarvis Walker led Muskegon with 16 points and Vern Nash added 15, including three three-pointers. 

Williams led R-P with 20 points, including 15 after halftime. Mitchelson had 14, connecting four times from three-point range.