By Mitchell Boatman
MUSKEGON TWP. – The Grand Haven boys basketball team has been on the wrong side of Muskegon’s seven-year district championship run, losing to the Big Reds in the tournament each of those years, including five times in the finals.
But on Saturday afternoon, the Bucs finally snapped the streak. Grand Haven dominated the Division 1 title game with a 66-51 victory over Muskegon at Reeths-Puffer High School to capture the team’s first district championship since the 2011-2012 season.
“Obviously it feels awesome,” said Grand Haven coach Greg Immink. “I’m super proud of the way our guys played today. I loved their effort, their focus, the way they came into the game.
“That’s one of the things I love about this team — they’re pretty fearless. When the bright lights come on, our guys feel like they’re ready.”
Saturday also marked the end of an incredible streak of 16 consecutive district championships for Muskegon head coach Keith Guy, which began when he was coaching at Muskegon Heights.
“It’s a chance you take every time you play a district game,” Guy said of the streak ending. “The other team doesn’t care about a streak, they’re trying to beat you. That’s what Grand Haven did tonight. But hey, we start over.”
Grand Haven and Muskegon were scheduled to play for the district title last season, as well, before COVID-19 suddenly ended the season the night before the game. That made Saturday’s victory even more special for Grand Haven.
“It’s a great feeling to come back here a year later and finally get it done,” said Grand Haven senior Landon VanBeek, who posted 12 points and 14 rebounds. “With this group of guys who have clicked so well over the last couple months, we’re happy to get it done, it’s a great feeling.”
“We didn’t get to play last year, it got taken away from us because of the pandemic,” said Bashir Neely, who scored 17 points for Grand Haven. “It was a huge momentum booster when we heard we were playing Muskegon. They and Coach Guy have always been the team to put us out, so it was good to put them out.”
Grand Haven, now 11-5, will advance to the regional round next week to take on the winner of Forest Hills Northern and Forest Hills Central. The game will be at 7 p.m. at Reeths-Puffer High School.
“There are a lot of good teams in Division 1, there just flat out are,” Immink said about advancing to regionals. “Every team you’re going to see and going to face is a good team. I love my guys, I love our team, I love our confidence, and we’ll see how far we can take this ride.”
Muskegon finished the season with a 13-7 record. Guy said he’s proud of his young team for battling through the strange season, and congratulated the Bucs on the district title.
“I’m very proud of my guys, we were able to play 20 games in a pandemic without being affected by it,” Guy said. “(Grand Haven) played awesome tonight. They got to every loose ball, they made a lot of shots. We were kind of a step slow. They deserved to win tonight and congratulations to them as a district champ.”
Grand Haven took control early on, leading by as many as 11 points in the first quarter and holding a 14-8 edge after one.
Muskegon pulled within four points at 20-16 midway through the second quarter, but the Bucs closed the half on a 9-3 run to lead 29-19 at the break.
Grand Haven used a 10-2 run to close the third quarter and extend the lead to 45-27.
Another scoring spurt, this time a 9-3 run to open the fourth quarter, stretched the lead to 54-30. Muskegon drew within 14 at 56-42 with 2:40 to play, but Grand Haven was able to make enough shots at the foul line to hold on for the win.
Harrison Sorrelle led Grand Haven with 20 points and seven rebounds. He scored 10 of his points in the fourth quarter. Nic Stump added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Bucs.
Jordan Briggs paced Muskegon with 21 points, while Maurice Sain Jr. scored 10 and Anthony Sydnor III added eight.