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Top-ranked G.R. Christian gains revenge, dominates Muskegon, 64-26, in a Class A regional

By: Lenny Padilla, March 14, 2017, 3:23 pm

(PHOTO CREDIT: Lenny Padilla)

Grand Haven – It was billed as one of the best games in the Class A tournament. On Monday two undefeated teams went head-to-head with the winner advancing to a region final.

As it turned out, it was a totally one-sided game.

Xavier Tillman had 15 points and 21 rebounds as No. 1 Grand Rapids Christian crushed No. 4 Muskegon, 64-26, in a regional semifinal at Grand Haven.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Christian coach Mark Warners said. “I had total faith that we could defend them. But I didn’t think it would be quite like this.”

Tillman, a 6-8 forward who signed with Michigan State, had extra motivation.

“Personally, it was great for me because I lost to coach (Keith) Guy my sophomore year and junior year. He put me out of the playoffs,” Tillman said. “This win was just huge for me personally because it gave me the confidence that I can do this and I can help my team make a run in the playoffs.”

Tillman like the Mr. Basketball he is, especially inside. His toughest competition for rebounds might have been his teammate, James Beck.

“Oh my goodness,” Warners said of Tillman’s game. “The guy he was fighting the most was with J.B. You can’t fault ‘em for both going after it. He was a monster on the boards.”

Beck, a 6-7 forward who signed with Oakland, finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.

“This one was definitely a big motivation,” Beck said of playing Muskegon. “After taking that loss last year (in the regional semifinal), it was really personal today.”

Christian (24-0) will play No. 6 Holland West Ottawa (23-1) on Wednesday at Grand Haven. The Panthers’ only loss this season was to Christian.

“I had a good feeling that we were going to come out with a win,” Tillman said. “But the score … I had no clue if it was going to be close or not.”

The score was a shocker to Muskegon forward Sam Cornett, too.

“We thought we were prepared and coach gave us a really good game plan,” the senior said. “We needed to get them off the boards and make some shots. But ours didn’t go in. We had a tough shooting night. We were missing wide-open layups.”

Guy said no Muskegon has been handed such a one-sided loss, in his five seasons as head coach.

“No. Never,” he said. “And we’ve never shot this poorly. We had open looks. We missed layups. Some of it was their defense. Give them credit.”

The Eagles led 25-13 at halftime. The Big Reds seemed to make a run, but then a steal and a layup by Christian’s Thad Shymanski got the Eagles fans riled up and squashed the rally.

“We’re fortune,” Warners said. “They missed some shots and we defended well the entire game. It was a lot of fun.”

Shymanski, a senior guard, added 11 points for Christian. Markell Jackson led Muskegon (23-1) with 10 points.