CALEDONIA – The Muskegon boys basketball team is craving statewide respect, and the Big Reds earned a lot on Tuesday night in their hard-fought 59-43 Division 1 state quarterfinal victory over East Lansing at Caledonia High School.
“Most of it,” said head coach Keith Guy, when asked if respect is a motivating factor in the Big Reds’ tournament run. “We’ve won the most games in Division 1 in last 10 years and the last five years. We’ve had sustained success and kids going to college. We play a tough schedule year in and year out. At some point, we’ll have to get our respect.”
That mindset isn’t lost on the Muskegon players, either. That includes senior guard Jordan Briggs, who many felt should have had more serious consideration as a Mr. Basketball candidate.
“It’s a big thing for us,” Briggs said. “Coach always says ‘It’s us against the world.’ We feel we’ve been slighted in a lot of things, personally and as a team. We just want to prove people wrong and win a state championship.”
The Big Reds now head to the state Final Four.
They will meet Orchard Lake St. Mary’s on Friday at 2 p.m. at the Breslin Center at Michigan State University in the Division 1 state semifinals. The winner will advance to Saturday’s state championship game against the survivor of the Detroit Cass Tech-Grand Blanc semifinal.
“It feels great,” Briggs said about the Big Reds advancing to the Breslin Center for the first time since 2014. “We got to get right back to it tomorrow and prepare. But it’s great. I don’t really have any other words to say.”
While Muskegon won the game by 16 points, the contest was much closer until the fourth quarter, when the Big Reds pulled away with free throws.
East Lansing led 14-12 after one quarter. The score was 19-19 with 3:49 remaining in the first half, then Muskegon closed with an 8-5 run to take a 27-24 halftime lead.
Anthony Sydnor III led the Big Reds with five points in the second quarter.
The score was tied 31-31 and 3:50 remaining in the third quarter when Briggs had a shot at the rim blocked by East Lansing’s Evan Boyd.
Following the block, Boyd was given a technical for unsportsmanlike conduct. The Big Reds used the fuel that gave them to go on an 8-4 run and take a 39-35 lead headed into the fourth.
Muskegon spent the entire fourth quarter in the bonus and used the free throw line to score 11 of its final 20 points. David Day III hit six free throws in the quarter while Sydnor sank four.
East Lansing was held to eight points in the fourth quarter.
“Coach always gives me the biggest defensive assignment,” Sydnor said about the defensive effort, which limited East Lansing standout Cameron Hutson to just nine points. “I was excited. I’ll do anything I have to do to win.”
Sydnor and Briggs led the Big Reds with 13 points apiece while Day and Stanley Cunningham each had seven.
Boyd had eight 18 points for East Lansing.
The return trip to the Breslin will be special for Coach Guy, whose 2014 squad had a perfect season that ended with a state title game victory at MSU. But he’s mindful that the Big Reds still have unsettled business.
“I’m super excited,” the coach said. “These guys deserve all this and more. We’re happy to be going there, but we’re not done. We want to go there and win it. It’s an accomplishment to get there, but the ultimate accomplishment is to win it. We’re going to put our best foot forward and see what we can do.”