By Andrew Johnson

NORTON SHORES – Before the basketball season began, the Western Michigan Christian boys basketball team set a goal of winning the Lakes 8 Conference championship.

The Warrior’s Isaac Parker on the drive. Photo/Randy Riksen

On Friday the Warriors kept that dream alive with a convincing 53-32 win over Muskegon Catholic Central on their home court. They remain in a three-way tie for first place with Ludington and Orchard View, with one conference game remaining.

“We talk about it,” said WMC head coach Kurt Gruppen about the conference title. “It’s one of their goals that was set at the beginning of the season. We’ve put ourselves in position to do that. We had two boxes to check – winning tonight and winning at Manistee next week.”

Friday’s victory did more than keep the Warriors’ title hopes alive. It also provided a measure of revenge, because WMC lost a 39-38 heartbreaker to MCC on Jan. 17.

“Obviously we left their place last time not feeling like we played our best,” Gruppen said about that loss. “But they’re tough and their kids really get up for this game. They defend really well, so it’s not like we get to roll the ball out and roll over them.”

After trailing 11-7 at the end of the first quarter, Western Michigan Christian took a 18-17 lead into  halftime after Kellen Mitchell hit a three-pointer with two seconds left in the half.

“It was big,” said Mitchell about the momentum swing from his triple. “We were down two and that put us ahead. We were a lot more confident after that.”

WMC took control in the third quarter, outscoring the Crusaders 21-4 to take a 39-21 lead into the fourth. Brevin Byrne led the outburst with eight points while Mitchell scored seven.

“In the second half we kind of started to play more aggressive, which picked things up,” Gruppen said.

Western Michigan Christian sealed up the win with a 14-11 edge in the fourth quarter.

Mitchell led all scorers 19 points while Owen Varnado had 11 and Byrne totaled 10.

Muskegon Catholic was led by Jared Dugener with 12 points, which put him over the 1,000-point mark for his career. MCC is now 6-10 overall and 3-6 in conference play.