MUSKEGON — The Greenville Yellow Jackets, after an early lead, spent most of its first game chasing the lead.
In the end, the Yellow Jackets (0-1) may have ran out of gas in a 71-64 season opening loss to the Muskegon Reeths-Puffer Rockets.
The two teams were very similar, including the fact both teams were facing uncertain situations coming into the season.
Greenville, after losing four outstanding seniors, features just one player (Greg Krusniak) who played significant minutes a year ago. David Ingles, coach of the Rockets, brings a literal meaning to new coach, as he was hired just two weeks ago.
Despite the inexperience and unfamiliarity, the Yellow Jackets and Rockets (1-0) put on an offensive display to open the season.
“We didn’t know what to expect, Mark (Haist) didn’t know either,” Reeths-Puffer coach David Ingles said. “We are still choppy on offense. We made shots. When shots are falling we can compete. If we don’t make shots we will struggle. Things went our way tonight, Greenville is a good team.”
Greenville jumped out to a 13-6 first quarter lead as four of five starting Yellow Jackets scored. The Rockets, though, caught fire and drained five first quarter three-pointers to close out the first eight minutes on a 15-4 run for a 21-17 lead.
“Offensively, you can’t argue with 60-something points,” Haist said. “But we gave up 39 points in the first half and 71 in the game. We have to refocus on defense and that is where we’ve been focusing.”
Haist said it was a combination of things that led to deficiencies on the defensive side, but none more than intensity.
“That’s on me to make sure we are bringing the intensity we need,” Haist said. “We were so flat in the first half defensively and we gave them confidence. We gave them open shots and confidence helps the next shots to go in.”
The Rockets finished the first half with a 39-33 lead. Three players were in double figures and the team knocked down seven shots from beyond the arc.
Greenville chipped away at the lead in the third quarter. Krusniak scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the third as the Yellow Jackets cut the lead to 56-53.
“That big kid (Krusniak) is incredible,” Ingles said. “We tried front, we tried playing behind, he is a good player.”
The Yellow Jackets regained steam offensively to start the fourth quarter with a 7-0 run for a 60-56 advantage.
Reeths-Puffer took a 62-60 lead, which was gone quickly on a shot by guard Curtis Heppe. With just 1:19 remaining, it was another three-point shot, this time by Jalen Benton, to grab the final lead for the Rockets.
Benton finished with 22 points, seven of those in the fourth quarter.
“Down the stretch our guards made a few more plays,” Ingles said. “We got lucky on some breaks. Greenville had some balls roll off the rim late, so breaks went our way. I thought both teams played hard.”
Greenville had a few chances to tie or take the lead, but could not get it done.
“They out-executed us at the end of the game and that is my fault,” Haist said. “They hit their free throws and we missed out on some opportunities.”
Alex Karatkiewicz added 13 points for the Yellow Jackets.
Andrew Reinecke scored 17 points off the bench, while Quinzell Pannell added 13 points. The Rockets finished with nine three-pointers.
“It’s a learning experience, but it doesn’t keep us from any of our goals,” Haist said. “We are going to keep getting better on a daily basis.”
Greenville’s freshman team won 50-42, while the junior varsity team lost 52-30. Mitch Niewoonder scored 10 points for the JV Yellow Jackets.
Reeths-Puffer is off until Tuesday when they travel to face Grand Rapids Creston. The Yellow Jackets will face rival Belding on the road Friday.
Muskegon Reeths-Puffer 71, Greenville 64
Greenville 17 16 20 11 — 64
Reeths-Puffer 21 18 17 15 — 71
GREENVILLE (0-1) — Heppe 4 0-4 8, Karatkiewicz 5 2-3 13, Syrjala 0 8-8 8, Nieto 2 1-2 6, Cooper 3 1-1 7, Krusniak 10 2-2 22. Totals: 24 14-20 64. Three-point goals: Karatkiewicz, Nieto. Total fouls: 16. Fouled out: Karatkiewicz, Heppe.
REETHS-PUFFER (1-0) — Blake 0 4-4 4, Livers 3 2-2 8, Benton 8 2-2 22, Polk 1 0-0 2, Versalle 1 0-0 2, Pannell 5 0-0 13, Reinecke 6 3-4 17, Barnes 1 1-2 3. Totals: 25 12-14 71: Three-point goals: Benton 4, Pannell 3, Reinecke 2. Total fouls: 20. Fouled out: None.