By Aaron McClorey
MUSKEGON – Opponents can contain Muskegon’s Kailyn Nash for a while, but in the end she’s going to do her damage.
Nash scored five of her team’s six points in the extra session, giving the Big Reds a thrilling 50-48 O-K Green victory over the Rockets, and a bit of revenge for their loss to R-P in the Division 1 district finals last season.
The tight game began with a few missed buckets on both ends, and the Rockets denying Nash the ball on every inbound. The idea from the get-go was to keep her from dictating the pace of the game as much as possible.
“We wanted to take away transition baskets as much as we could, but down the stretch she just kept getting free,” said Reeths-Puffer Coach Rodney Walker, who coached Nash at Muskegon before moving over to R-P.
Nash finished the first quarter with only two points, but had a big block with under 10 seconds to go, and Muskegon led 8-5 at the first buzzer.
In the second, Nash made an immediate impact with a block that she rebounded and took coast to coast, and then on the very next possession got to the free throw line and hit both shots to give her team a 13-5 lead with six minutes to go.
After a time out, the Rockets went on a 12-3 run of their own, which included two three pointers from sophomore point guard Sophia Hekkema. After some more back-and-forth scoring that concluded with another three from Hekkema, the game was tied 22-22 at halftime.
“The girls settled into the offense, got something out of the plays instead of simply going up and down the court and putting up shots,” Walker said.
The momentum continued to swing in favor of Reeths-Puffer in the third quarter when he Rockets went on another run to take a 33-26 lead. The teams traded buckets until Nash completed a three-point play to cut the margin to three, and R-P took a 37-34 lead into the final frame.
Both teams played solid defense in the fourth quarter. With about three minutes to go, Hekkema got a putback layup, giving the Rockets a five-point lead. Nash went on to evaporate that lead herself with one transition layup, followed by another one on the next possession, when she was also fouled. Nash hit the game-tying layup, and after both teams missed potential game winners, the game went to overtime tied 44-44.
Nash took control in the OT period by scoring five of her team’s six points. With 21 seconds on the clock, Hekkema hit a layup to pull Reeths-Puffer within one point. Muskegon’s McKynna Sims hit one of two free throws to make the score 50-48 with 12 seconds to go. The Rockets came down the court with one chance to win it, but a three-point attempt that would have won the game did not fall, and the Big Reds escaped with the league victory.
Kailyn Nash scored 25 points on the night for Muskegon, while Hekkema put in 21 for Reeths-Puffer. The Big Reds improved to 4-3 on the season.