By Craig Beilfuss
MUSKEGON—Saturday evening the defending Division 1 boys basketball state champion Grand Blanc Bobcats made a visit to Redman-Potter Gymnasium to take on the fourth ranked, Division 1 Muskegon Big Reds.
Muskegon came out on top in a thrilling double overtime game 84-79.
The Big Reds withstood a great performance by the Bobcats’ sharpshooting junior guard RJ Taylor who hit for a game high 31 points, hitting four 3-pointers, to go with a perfect five for five from the free throw line and seven 2-point baskets.
“RJ is a great player…a Division 1 player,” said Muskegon coach Keith Guy.
“I like Anthony Sydnor and Jordan Briggs as well. You know I’ve been saying this they are one of the top back courts in the state of Michigan. At some point you know hopefully people will start respecting them,” Guy said.
Muskegon cashed in at the free throw line especially down the stretch. Overall they were 30-of-41 from the charity stripe, which included 10-of-16 in the fourth quarter and 12-of-16 in the two overtime periods.
The Big Reds got out to a 16-14 lead after the first eight minutes of action as four Muskegon players found the scoring column. Junior Jordan Briggs led the Muskegon offensive attack with six points in the first quarter. Briggs went on to finish with 22 points. The Bobcats hit three 3-point shots to stay close behind.
Muskegon put some distance between themselves and Grand Blanc in the second stanza.
With the Big Reds leading 26-25, they closed out the first half on a 13-1 run to take a 39-26 halftime lead.
Ethan Hill hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer along with a two point bucket to lead the surge at the end of the half. Briggs connected from long distance and Muskegon got a bucket and a free throw from M’Khi Guy to go along with a basket from Anthony Sydnor III.
Muskegon held a slim 15-13 scoring advantage in the third quarter as Briggs scored eight points in the frame and the Big Reds hit three 3-pointers to increase there lead to 54-39 entering the final eight minutes.
Sydnor III hit the opening basket and a free throw to start the fourth quarter which gave the Big Reds a commanding 18-point lead at 57-39. Sydnor III scored eight points in the final eight minutes and a team high 23 points on the evening.
Grand Blanc came charging all the way back outscoring the Big Reds 27-12 in the final eight minutes and tied the game up at 66-66 with :06.7 seconds remaining.
A three point shot at the buzzer by Briggs fell short for Muskegon forcing the first overtime session.
Taylor led the way for the Bobcats with nine points as Grand Blanc hit three 3-point shots and went 10-of-12 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter.
“They ramped up the pressure and we started playing not to lose. They got more aggressive and kind of fell back a little bit, said the veteran Muskegon coach who now has 200 career wins at Muskegon.
Both teams scored seven points each in the first four minute overtime period but none larger than a basket by Muskegon’s Ethan Hill.
Taylor put Grand Blanc in the lead at 73-71 with :08-seconds remaining when he drained a long distance three point shot.
Sydnor III put up a last second shot for Muskegon that missed the mark only to have Hill there for the rebound where he hit a buzzer beating shot to knot things up a 73-73 forcing the game into double overtime.
The Big Reds made a living at the free throw in the second overtime period going 9-for-10 and outscoring the Bobcats 11-6 to secure the win.
“We fought and that’s what Big Reds do. Big Reds fight to the finish. Our depth got us through the game,” said Guy.
Muskegon sophomore M’Khi Guy joined Sydnor III and Briggs in double figures with 11 points. Senior Ethan Hill and sophomore Stanley Cunningham each contributed nine points respectively.
Joining Taylor in double digits for Grand Blanc were junior Tae Boyd with 16 points and junior Amont’e Allen-Johnson with 14.
The Bobcats hit eight 3-point shots and were 15-of-24 from the charity stripe.
Muskegon improves to 16-1 overall and remains perfect in the OK Conference-Green with a 12-0 record. The Big Reds will visit Muskegon Reeths-Puffer on Tuesday evening, February 22.