MUSKEGON, MI – The atmosphere in Muskegon’s Redmond-Potter Gymnasium was a little deflated when people in the crowd noticed Chicago Curie Metro’s 6-foot-8 Cliff Alexander still wearing grey sweats during warm-ups.
The final game of the Muskegon Basketball Showcase Saturday was supposed to be highlighted by the match-up between Alexander, a Kansas-commit, against Muskegon’s Deyonta Davis, a 6-9 forward committed to Michigan State.
Even though the individual showdown never materialized, the Muskegon-Curie match-up proved to be the highlight of the Showcase.
William Roberson, of Muskegon, dribbles the ball up the court as Kamar Marshall, of Chicago Curie Metro, attempts to block during the game Jan. 4, 2014. Muskegon won in overtime 73-66. (Natalie Kolb | MLive.com)
The Big Reds and Condors battled back-and-forth all four quarters and eventually needed overtime, where the hosts scored the first 10 points on their way to a 73-66 win over the nationally-ranked Condors in front of 2,200 spectators.
“I think it would have been a good game with Cliff in there,” said Muskegon coach Keith Guy, who lost to Alexander and company 68-55 in the Showcase a year ago. “I’m not going to discount my guys. I really think we have a good enough team that we can compete with anybody.
“It’s unfortunate that he didn’t play. We prepared for him to play, but all I can control is the 12 guys in my locker room. They’re still the No. 20 team in the nation for a reason, so this is a very good win for us.”
Neither of the other two games Saturday were as competitive, although they featured plenty of talent.
Detroit Consortium Prep routed Grand Rapids Christian 70-35 in the opener behind 6-7 swingman and No. 2-rated sophomore in the country Josh Jackson’s 18 points.
In the middle game Kentucky-bound guard Tyler Ulis recorded 30 points and 10 assists to lead Marian Catholic (Ill.) past Detroit Country Day 74-60.
Davis led the way for Muskegon (4-0) with 24 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks in the absence of Alexander, who was serving a 1-game suspension for being ejected from a game earlier this season.
“It was still a tough game,” Davis said. “We still had to stick to the game plan. It went well.”
Davis put down several alley-oop and rebound dunks, to the delight of the home crowd.
Still, the Condors (10-1) led 57-51 with two minutes to play behind a suffocating full-court press and junior Joshua Stamps, who recorded 25 points.
Muskegon put together an 8-2 run capped by Deshaun Thrower’s driving layup with 27 seconds to play in regulation to force overtime.
“We’re pleased with the performance, but when you’re up six points with two minutes to play that’s when you need to show you can play basketball with some of the big boys and without your superstar,” Curie coach Michael Oliver said. “We played that game hard for 31 minutes, and then we had a meltdown.”
William Roberson knocked down a wide-open 3-pointer 18 seconds into the overtime, and the Big Reds never looked back.
“We focused on getting the first basket in overtime so they couldn’t get the lead and sit on it,” said Thrower, who added 17 points, seven assists and three steals. “We were able to get another one and then just keep it going.
“This win means a lot to us. They’re a really good team and ranked in the country.”
Joeviair Kennedy and William Roberson added 14 and 11 points, respectively, for the Big Reds.
Joseph Stamps and Marcus Gatlin both hit double figures for the Condors, scoring 15 and 11 points, respectively.
Oliver said he would take responsibility for his team’s late-game swoon, as in hindsight he believed he should have kept the full-court press on until the end of the game.
“We went back into our half-court man-to-man and (the Big Reds) just picked us apart with their pick-and-rolls,” Oliver said.
“They did a good job of getting the ball to their superstars and they made plays down the stretch. (Thrower) either scored the basket or made the pass which led to the basket. It’s a learning experience for us. We know we have a long way to go, but we can play with anyone.”
The Big Reds’ 10-0 run to start overtime showed what they’re capable of when the focus is there and when they run their offense.
Curie’s press hurt, but Muskegon also hurt itself many times in the half-court.
“I thought we played in spurts,” Guy said. “Offensively and defensively, I thought we didn’t have the passion and the energy in stretches throughout the game, but we got it at the right times.
“I thought (in overtime) the guys finally realized, ‘Hey, we better play’. We were playing with our backs against the wall for most of the night. In overtime they just said we have to play the way we’re capable of.”