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Hudsonville stuns Muskegon, heads to quarterfinals

By: Steve Vedder, March 16, 2016, 11:21 pm



Caledonia – The fourth time wasn’t as much a charm as it was a miracle for the Hudsonville.


The Eagles put a recent history of heartbreak behind them to stun Muskegon 44-40 in Wednesday’s Class A regional final at Caledonia.


The win reverses some painful tournament memories for the Eagles, which had lost to Muskegon in the last three seasons in the regionals. Last season the loss came in four overtimes. In 2014 Muskegon was led by the first of two Mr. Basketball winners and in 2013 Hudsonville would have beaten Muskegon if a buzzer beater had gone in at the end. It was actually the teams’ fifth regional meeting in six years as Hudsonville defeated the Big Reds in 2011.


It seemed for much of the latest matchup that Muskegon would make it four straight after the Big Reds scored the game’s first seven points, still held a comfortable 29-25 lead after three quarters and didn’t trail until 1:06 was left in the game.


"History speaks for itself," Hudsonville coach Eric Elliott said. "We’ve been there before. We’ve played this type of game the last three years. All our seniors were here last year, so they know what it’s like. It’s not like we’ve been blown out against them. We’ve been in this setting before and we never panicked."


The win sends Hudsonville (19-5) into Tuesday’s quarterfinal at Lansing Eastern against Lansing Everett (15-10).


Down 24-14 with five minutes left in the third quarter and plagued by a sluggish offense, the Eagles eventually tied the game 35-35 on a twisting layup by senior guard Jared Blum with two minutes to go. He hit another layup with 1:06 left to put the Eagles in the lead for good at 39-38. The Eagles were 5-of-6 from the free throw line in the final 41.5 seconds to seal the win.


Despite never leading until the end, Hudsonville senior forward Adam VanLaar said his teammates believed they could make a final run.


"We thought from the beginning we could win," said VanLaar, who finished with 12 points. "We’re a confident team, but it did get a little scary. But coach says never stop fighting and we didn’t."


Eagles senor guard Riley Costen, who had seven key fourth-quarter points to finish with 12, said the disappointing tournament history wasn’t lost on his teammates.


"We’re a resilient team," he said. "Jared (Blum) hit a couple big 3-pointers and we kept fighting. As freshmen and sophomores we watched those games. Last year’s four overtime game was special, but also personal."


Hudsonville had three players with 12 points including Blum, who hit two huge 3-pointers in the third quarter to keep Muskegon from extending its lead. The Eagles wound up shooting 48 percent (16 of 33) from the floor.


"We’ve got so many options, guys who can make plays," Elliott said. "When we’re clicking offensively, we can be a good team. We felt like we were getting the shots we wanted. We thought going into the half if we could hit a couple shots we’d be where we wanted to be."


Defensively, Hudsonville has given up an average of just 35 points per game in its last three tournament contests.


"They know defensively what we can do," Elliott said.


Muskegon hit just seven of its last 22 shots after leading by 10 three minutes into the third.


Big Reds coach Keith Guy said there were times when he thought Hudsonville could be pushed over the brink, but that moment never happened. Part of the reason was free throws as Muskegon hit 5-of-7 compared to 10-of-15 for the Eagles.


"I thought we had them at the brink, but we didn’t make enough plays to put it away," he said. "They made the plays when they had to. It was a bounce here and there. Maybe it was youth, but we needed to make more plays."


Jacarius Scott led Muskegon with 11 points.