Muskegon goes ‘Hollywood’ in 4OT thriller to escape against Hudsonville
HOLLAND – The imposing tandem of senior forwards Deyonta Davis and Joeviair Kennedy normally collects all the headlines when Muskegon overwhelms one of its opponents on the basketball court.
It was junior point guard Michael Littlejohn, Jr., however, who stole the show in quadruple overtime Wednesday night to help the Big Reds overcome Hudsonville, 70-60, to earn a trip to the Class A state quarterfinals.
Littlejohn scored the first eight points of the fourth overtime period as Muskegon (23-1) prevailed in an exhausting regional title game in front of a sellout crowd at West Ottawa High School.
“That’s why we call him ‘Hollywood.’ He’s fearless,” Muskegon coach Keith Guy said.
The contest, which remained close throughout regulation, featured a chess match between coaching staffs in the OT periods. Hudsonville coach Eric Elliott had his team hold the ball throughout the first three OTs in an attempt to slow down the fourth-ranked Big Reds and decide the outcome on a final possession.
The strategy nearly sealed the upset bid.
Hudsonville (16-8) held the ball for the last shot in the first OT tied at 49-49. Junior guard Bryce Elliott missed a deep 3-point attempt off the front of the rim and senior forward Brent Hibbitts missed a short follow-up at the buzzer.
Hibbitts scored Hudsonville’s only basket of the second OT, putting the Eagles ahead 51-49 with 13 seconds remaining. But Kennedy, who had a shot attempt blocked by Hibbitts at the end of the fourth quarter, rushed the ball up the floor and hit a 16-foot jumper with four seconds left to make it 51-51.
“It was very crazy, but I just didn’t give up,” Kennedy said of his game-saving field goal. “I just kept playing.”
Hibbitts and Kennedy accounted for their teams’ lone baskets in the third overtime.
Kennedy, who led all players with 27 points and 13 rebounds, had a chance to decide the outcome at the buzzer in 3OT, but his soft, floating jump shot in the lane bounced off the back of the rim.
“It was a little bit of everything,” Guy said of the dramatic plot twists and turns during the contest. “I just thank God we get to keep playing. We’re built for this. That’s why we play the schedule we play. That’s why we practice so hard.
“We could have gone five or six more overtimes.”
Littlejohn altered the momentum with a 3-pointer from the left corner at the 2:54 mark of the fourth OT. He then banked in a short shot in transition and added a three-point play with 1:55 left to go, putting the Big Reds in charge, 61-53.
“I’m really tired,” Littlejohn after being handed his regional championship medal. “My legs are gone. My coaches just wanted me to keep playing, keep being aggressive and keep shooting, and that’s what I did.”
Guy stressed that Davis isn’t a one-man gang despite his 6-foot-9 frame and jaw-dropping athleticism.
The Big Reds survived despite Davis fouling out of the contest at the 5:14 mark of the fourth quarter. He picked up his fourth personal foul, reaching over the back of a Hudsonville player for an offensive rebound, and immediately got tagged with his fifth on a technical foul for complaining to the referee.
Davis finished with four points and 12 rebounds in just 19 minutes of action.
“You play passive against them, they’ve won the battle,” Eric Elliott said. “We thought we could get him in foul trouble, and we did. It was a war. We thought we executed our game plan real well.”
He praised his team’s effort in a fight to the finish against the Big Reds.
“I thought we had some plays that could’ve done it for us, but that’s how it goes,” he said. “We’ve played them tough three years in a row in regionals. This year, we felt like we were going to win.”
Littlejohn finished with 16 points. Senior guard Jason Lorea added eight points.
Hibbitts, who set the school’s career scoring mark and reached the 1,000-point plateau this season, had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Eagles. Junior guard Jared Blum led them with 17 points and senior forward Mason Opple contributed 11.