The Muskegon Heights Tigers have become a familiar site this time of year at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich.
The Tigers, now 25-1 and ranked No. 2 in the state, will play Haslett (24-1) Friday in a semifinal game. It will be the Heights' fourth straight trip to the Breslin Center after routing Houghton Lake 73-52 in a state quarterfinal game at Cadillac High School Tuesday night.
"Our depth was the key to winning," Heights head coach Keith Guy said. "Houghton Lake likes to play at a fast pace but we play at a little faster pace."
The Tigers led from start to finish. Senior guard Arien McDaniel led the offensive attack with a team-high 18 points. Six-foot-8 junior center Ed Sanders opened the scoring with a thunderous two-hand dunk and the Heights never looked back.
"Going through the scouting report, we didn't think they could hold our guys off the dribble," said Sanders, who garnered 10 points and 10 rebounds against the Bobcats (24-2). "It's important for me to play well, otherwise I don't think we're going to win it all."
"I thought Ed gave up the block too easily in the first half, but he tightened it up in the second half and got some good boards," Guy said. "We've done everything well so far. We just want to go out and finish the job at the Breslin and I thank God for this opportunity."
The Tigers have won six state championships in their illustrious history, including back-to-back titles in 1978 and '79. Those teams were led by All-Stater Robert Kitchen, who went on to play for Kent State.
One of the key members of this year's Muskegon Heights squad is Kitchen's nephew, 6-2 sophomore guard David Fox. Against the Bobcats, Fox came off the bench to contribute eight points, four assists and four rebounds.
Under the watchful eye of Central Michigan University assistant coach Lamar Chapman, Fox dribbled around and between Houghton Lake defenders in the final seconds of the first quarter, holding for the last shot. Fox then penetrated to the free throw line and drained a 15-foot jumper as the buzzer sounded with the Tigers taking a 20-12 lead.
"I came out and played pretty good," Fox said. "Coach Guy wants me to penetrate with the ball and play great defense."
"Lamar thought we played well," Guy said, referring to the former Muskegon Heights head coach turned CMU assistant. "I was glad to see him here."
Fox is rated among the top players in Michigan's 2007 class. Like last year, Fox said he plans to attend CMU's basketball camp again this summer, along with teammates Sanders and Lou Williams.
Right now though, Fox and his teammates are focused on bringing a seventh state title home to Muskegon Heights.
Up next for the Tigers is Haslett (24-1), which beat Perry 72-55 in another quarterfinal. One of Haslett's leaders is 6-5 senior Calvin Hissong, who plans to attend CMU as a preferred walk-on football player.
Muskegon Heights would appear to have what it takes to win a state title - experience, size, depth and speed. If the Tigers do defeat Haslett Friday, they would play the winner of the Grand Rapids South Christian versus Detroit Renaissance game Saturday night.
South Christian is the 2003 Class B state champion, having defeated Muskegon Heights in the title game, while Renaissance won the championship last year.
The Tigers quickness and defensive pressure stifled the Bobcats Tuesday night, forcing 10 turnovers. That pressure defense and an experienced, deep team could be the keys to winning it all this weekend for the Heights.
"We want to win the state championship," Sanders said. "It means everything to us at Muskegon Heights."
Muskegon Heights Rolls Into State Finals
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