By Craig Beilfuss
GRAND RAPIDS– It was a battle of two Division 1 heavyweights.
In the end, the No. 5-ranked North Farmington Raiders handed the No. 3-ranked Muskegon Big Reds their first loss of the season in a 68-55 decision. The game was played in the 2K23 Showcase at Aquinas College.
For the first time this season, Muskegon found themselves against an opponent that was taller and more physical than the Big Reds. The constant defensive pressure also helped end the Big Reds’ 13-game winning streak to start the season.
“We didn’t do anything the scouting report called for,” Muskegon coach Keith Guy said. “I thought we went off script. We weren’t poised and I don’t think we matched their physicality. We’re much tougher than what we played, but hats off to them.”
Preparing for the long run is why the Big Reds schedule upper-tier opponents.
“This is why we schedule these games,” the veteran coach said. “It prepares us for anybody. It prepares us for Zeeland East and to be better daily.”
North Farmington led from start to finish. The Raiders jumped out front, 13-9, after the first eight minutes. Muskegon found themselves trailing 22-13 with 3:37 remaining in the second stanza. That’s when Guy called a timeout to rally his Big Reds. Muskegon ended the second quarter on a 7-2 spurt and found themselves trailing for the first time all season at the half, 24-20.
The Raiders forced Muskegon to play catchup ball the entire second half. North Farmington extended their lead and basically had a double-digit lead for most of the second half.
The Raiders posted a 24-16 scoring advantage in the third quarter thanks to 12 points from Ryan Hurst, which included a pair of shots from beyond the arc. Hurst finished with a game-high 22 points and was named the Most Valuable Player of the contest. Muskegon entered the fourth quarter trailing, 48-36.
North Farmington secured the win with a 20-19 scoring edge in the final eight minutes.
Both teams hit five 3-pointers in the game. A bright spot for the Big Reds a 14-of-17 performance from the charity stripe. The Raiders hit 9-of-13 free throws.
Joining Hurst in double figures tor North Farmington was Mackhi Jackson with 12 points and Tyler Spratt tossed in nine points.
Muskegon senior Anthony Sydnor III led the Big Red with 15 points while senior Jordan Briggs finished with 12. Junior Terrance Briggs chipped in with seven points. Briggs’ time was limited in the first as he picked up his second personal foul with 5:09 remaining in the first quarter and sat on the bench for the rest of the first half.
Now Guy will look to see how the Big Reds respond, starting Tuesday night at Zeeland East.
“You don’t get any resets in March,” said Guy. “If we’re having this conversation in March, we’d be cleaning our lockers out.”
Muskegon (13-1, 8-0) will travel to Zeeland East on Tuesday.