Posted On: 01/29/18 1:40 PM
The Detroit Loyola-Muskegon matchup was a Saturday afternoon treat in Detroit. It was one of the most competitive, entertaining games I’ve viewed all year, with multiple lead changes and a spirited crowd. Let’s take a look at how it all went down.
Loyola wing Myron Gardner came out on fire in the first quarter, scoring 8 of the Bulldogs’ 10 points to give Loyola the 10-9 edge after 1 quarter. Muskegon guard Willie Shanks set the tone for the Big Reds, mixing it up on the glass for a few putbacks in addition to some stingy defense. The second quarter carried on much the same, as both teams were very physical and points at a premium with Loyola holding on to a slim 26-24 lead heading into halftime.
After the break, Muskegon junior Eonte Tornes would turn the tide of the game. The 5’10 junior knocked down 2 triples and finished a strong drive with an ‘And 1 finish’ to give the Big Reds a 47-42 lead and a ton of momentum heading into the final period of play. Muskegon would extend the lead to 9 with 4 minutes left to play before Loyola made a furious comeback to cut the deficit to 2 after a Lyn-Derrick Brown triple with 58 seconds left. The Bulldogs comeback would fall short after a Chris Perry layup cut the lead to 59-58 and the officials failed to grant Loyola a timeout following the basket and time expired.
Here are five items that stick out in the aftermath:
The 2018 guard was Muskegon’s leading scorer with 20 points, but his impact extended much further. From the opening tip, Shanks set the tone with his intensity and physicality. Willie mixed it up in the paint and came down with contested rebounds in traffic early on and was able to score on a few putbacks. Defensively he took on the challenge of guarding 3 different positions, and won those battles much more than he lost. As the game wore on, Shanks’ toughness remained at a high level whereas other players took the foot off the pedal a bit as the initial adrenaline wore off. The 6’1 guard came up with deflections, finished through contact, and was a reliable playmaker at the free throw line against the Loyola 2-3 zone. A stud defensive back on the football field with multiple Division II offers, Willie is still deciding whether his future will be on the hardwood or the grid-iron. If Shanks decides for the basketball court, small colleges should be foaming at the mouth for this tenacious guard that you can simply put on the court and expect good things to happen based on his ability to handle the ball, absorb contact, finish at the rim…….along with being one of the toughest players in the state that goes all out each and every possession.
It’s a well known fact that Gardner is a very good athlete with great verticality and tremendous strength. It looks like Myron has taken the next step in his development, as his perimeter skills are vastly improved. Against Muskegon, the 6’5 wing buried three triples and looked very comfortable shooting the ball from distance. On one of those makes, Gardner jab-stepped his defender to create space before raising up and knocking down the shot from the right corner. When a prospect is able to connect on high-difficulty shots from distance against a set defense, that is generally a good indicator of a reliable shooter that takes a ton of reps and confidence that it will go in. Myron also looked fluid as a shot creator off the dribble. On multiple occasions, he was able to change speeds and direction with the ball, get separation from his defender before finishing at the rim with great body control. It will be interesting to track Gardner’s development moving forward, if he can continue to improve his perimeter skill to compliment his physical tools, his stock is going to rise in a hurry.
Saturday was my first live viewing of Eonte, and I came away impressed. Tornes dropped 14 points, but it was the timing of his production that was most impressive. During a pivotal stretch of the third quarter, the 5’10 guard knocked down two triples and finished an ‘And 1’ on a strong drive to give the Big Reds some breathing room and all the momentum heading into the final quarter of play. While he may not be the biggest point guard, Eonte has a nice handle, gets to his spots on the floor and has a very good stroke from deep when his feet are set. He’s also surprisingly crafty around the rim as a finisher, and converts at a decent clip. Tornes does a good job of running the offense, does not turn the ball over much and is steady and reliable. The 2019 guard should be on the radar of JUCOs/NAIA/D3 coaches at this point.
If Loyola is going to make a run in the Class C playoff picture, Brown is going to be a key figure. While Myron Gardner is the engine that makes the Bulldogs go, Lyn-Derrick is that multi-positional player that can make such a huge difference at their best. Against Muskegon, the 6’4 guard came off the bench and made a big impact, scoring in double figures but his influence on what Loyola can do is bigger than points indicate. Brown gives Coach Dennis Morey a lengthy wing capable of being a secondary ballhandler, and perhaps more importantly, a floor spacer to give Myron Gardner and Cam Hudson driving lanes as he’s a plus shooter from distance. He also thrives in transition where he can use his speed and finishing ability to convert at the rim. Defensively, the rangy wing can check 2-3 positions and gives the Bulldogs some size and athleticism. While he’s not a starter, he plays starter-like minutes and is a great second-third option that gives Loyola a higher ceiling on both ends of the court.
The home of the Loyola Bulldogs can be a bit chilly, a glare from the sun penetrates the sight lines on the court, seating is cramped…………………..and that’s exactly what makes the Fenkell Fieldhouse so special. In an era of sophisticated audio systems, gyms that double as indoor tracks, and venues with seating capacities that routinely exceed 2,000-3,000 it was refreshing to take in a game where basketball is the emphasis. The intimate seating made for a great environment, as parents and fans from both sides were lively and could clearly hear one another and responded with louder cheers accordingly. It was a bit of nostalgia and basketball at its purest. Really like the game day scene at the Fenkell Fieldhouse, it takes you back to the pre-2000s gyms of metro-Detroit.