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Muskegon throttles G.R. Union, 66-32, reaches district final

By: Steve Vedder, March 9, 2016, 9:30 pm


Grand Rapids – That’s the philosophy of a streaking Muskegon boys basketball team that stretched its winning streak to 15 games with a thorough 66-32 win over Grand Rapids Union in Wednesday’s Class A district semifinal at Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills.

After losing three Division I players from a year ago including two all-staters, it’s a different Big Reds team than the one which fell in last season’s quarterfinal. But with an 18-3 record, Muskegon has been no less successful as it prepares for Friday’s 7 p.m. final against Kenowa Hills (16-5).

Instead of relying on its three missing stars, Big Reds coach Keith Guy said the current team has the right mix of depth, scoring balance and defense. All were major contributors in beating Union for a ninth straight time.

"We have a complete program which has kids willing to work," Guy said. "We’re not built on one guy; we have a lot of guys who take basketball seriously. We lost some good players and these kids have done an unbelievable job of adapting. Some people wrote this group off, they said we don’t have any star power. But they’ve accepted the challenge. It can’t be last year, but we have the same focus, the same goals."

Muskegon may not possess a bona fide star, but for starters there is excellent depth. Five players had at least nine points and Muskegon’s bench actually outscored the starters 35-31. Juniors Jermane Golidy and Anthony Bethea III came off the bench to score 14 and 12 points, with Golidy adding eight rebounds and two steals. Bethea had 13 rebounds. Jacarius Scott had 10 points and five rebounds. The only returning starter, Michael Littlejohn, had nine points.

Golidy, who played on junior varsity a year ago, said it’s taken time in makng the adjustment of coming off the bench for the first time in his career.

"It’s hard," he said. "But coach says we need to come off the bench and do things to help the team. Everyone has been scoring and we’re into that, too. We just do the things we have to do."

In addition to the depth and balance, Muskegon’s defense kept Union (12-9) off the scoreboard for the first 4:50 and gave up two baskets or less in three of four quarters. Muskegon led 23-7 at the half and 40-22 after three quarters.

Guy said his bench, which combined for 28 points in the second half, has been one of the team’s strengths. Muskegon starts five seniors, but has seven underclassmen on the roster.

"It’s a good bench that is built on balance," he said. "They could easily be starters on other teams, but we need their firepower coming off the bench. We have a deep team that has a lot of players who can do a lot of things."

Union coach Brandoen Guyton said he wouldn’t take anything away from Muskegon, but thought the Red Hawks would improve on regular season losses of 11 and 17 points to the Big Reds.

"They played very well and we played bad. I’ll say that," he said. "We played competitive against them the first two times. We’ve got to understand the situation and the magnitude of a (tournament) game. We knew if we put together four quarters against them that we’d be fine."

Guyton said he’s actually friends with Guy and respects the program the Big Reds have.

"He’s like a mentor to me, I have a lot of respect for him," Guyton said. "We return 12 guys next year and hopefully we can build like them."