By Andrew Johnson

NORTH MUSKEGON – To complete a perfect regular season, a team needs nerves of steel to pull out

close games, and more than a little luck.

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Conner Kilbourne brings the ball up for Ravenna. Photo/Marc Hoeksema

The Ravenna boys basketball team had both on Thursday, holding on through a slow fourth quarter and getting a break on a last-second shot to beat North Muskegon 56-54 in a tense West Michigan Conference battle.

Ravenna improved to 15-0 overall and 11-0 in the conference. The Bulldogs will travel to Oakridge on Tuesday with a chance to clinch the conference championship.

“It will be very similar and Oakridge is just as tough,” Ravenna Coach Courtney Kemp said about the next challenge. “It sure doesn’t get any easier.”

The game very nearly went to overtime. With just 5.6 seconds left, the Norse executed a perfect full court play to get Jack Dobb open for a chance to tie the game.

But Dobb’s shot along the left baseline was too strong and the clock expired, along with North Muskegon’s chance to pull off the upset.

“We drew it up kind of like that,” said North Muskegon coach Chuck Rypstra about the final play. “We got a good baseline, 8-10 foot look at it. It worked out okay and it almost happened.”

The two teams entered the fourth quarter tied 46-46, then points became hard to come by. The Bulldogs somehow managed to win against a good team on the road, despite scoring only eight points in the final eight minutes.

“It’s so tough,” Kemp said. “I couldn’t tell you the last time we won here. We pride ourselves on defense, and we feel our defense can keep us in games.”

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No. 14 Trevor Stern handles the North Muskegon pressure. Photo/Marc Hoeksema

The game started out fast-paced and high scoring, with Ravenna holding a 20-17 lead after the opening quarter. Calvin Schullo and Trevor Sterken each scored six points for Ravenna. John Hayhurst and Trevor Schultz did the same for the Norse.

Ravenna held a 34-30 halftime lead, thanks to a seven-point second quarter by Jacob May. 

North Muskegon’s Eric Rypstra got hot in the third quarter, scoring nine points to help the Norse tie the game at the third buzzer.

With the Norse trailing 53-49, Schultz hit a deep three-pointer to cut the deficit to 53-52 with 1:14 remaining.

Over the final 74 seconds, the lone point was a Sterken free throw that gave Ravenna its final margin of victory.

“It feels great,” May said about continuing the undefeated season. “Every win adds to our confidence. We have a lot of seniors and we’ve been through a lot. We just have to continue to stay focused.”

May and Schullo each had 14 points to lead Ravenna.  Eric Rypstra had 20 points and Dobb added 12 for North Muskegon.

The Norse fell to 10-5 overall and 7-4 in West Michigan Conference play. They’ll next travel to Montague on Tuesday for another conference matchup.

“We played really well,” Coach Rypstra said. “Hopefully it’s a springboard for us going forward into districts.”