By Mitchell Boatman
MUSKEGON — Muskegon head coach Keith Guy thought his team played great defense on the final play against Benton Harbor Friday night.
The senior elevated from several feet beyond the three-point line and nailed a game-winning triple at the buzzer to lift the Tigers over Muskegon, 69-66, at Redmond-Potter Gymnasium.
“I thought it was great defense – it was just better offense,” Guy said. “You’ve got to applaud the kid for making a great shot. He’s a hell of a player. I thought we defended it well.”
Muskegon started out slow, trailing 13-7 at halftime and 30-23 at the half. At the break, Guy said he challenged his team to fight their way back in.
“We talked about this at half,” the coach said. “We told the guys, maybe it’s good for us to be down. I wanted to see where the fighters are, if we have fight in us. That’s a telltale sign of a team, if you can fight through adversity. I thought we did that, we gave ourselves a chance to win and (Pullian) made a tough shot.”
The Big Reds trailed by 15 points late in the third quarter, but stormed back with a 16-1 run to tie the game at 48-48 early in the fourth. Muskegon sophomore Jordan Briggs sparked the rally with back-to-back threes at the end of the third quarter, and went on to total 21 points in the second half.
The teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter after the big Muskegon comeback, with neither team leading by more than three points in the final seven minutes.
Benton Harbor led 66-63 with 40 seconds left when Briggs nailed his sixth triple to knot the score at 66-66.
“I started feeling good once I saw the first few go in,” said Briggs, who finished with a team-high 25 points. “Coach drew up the play for me. I saw I had an open look so I took it and it went in.”
Benton Harbor dribbled the clock down to 11.6 seconds before calling a time out. After the huddle, Pullian connected from beyond the arc as the clock ran out to win the game.
“The last shot put them up to win it, but it wasn’t just that one play that lost us the game,” Guy said. “We did a lot of things to lose the game in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and even the fourth quarter. It’s a lesson for our guys. That’s a great team and we’ll get better.”
Kalil Stimage had 11 points and six rebounds for Muskegon and Kaden Smith added 10.
Pullian led Benton Harbor with 22, including five threes. Chris Moore added 17 points, including four makes from long range. Javaughn Kuykendoll had 15 for the Tigers.
The Big Reds fell to 2-1 after playing three games in four days. Guy said the game will serve as a learning experience for his young team.
“I think we grew up tonight, we matured tonight,” he said. “This is why we take these games, we’re still in preseason mode. What I learned is we’ve got fight in us. We battled, we didn’t give up.”