The “small school that could” gave the defending Class D state semifinalists all they could handle.
Fruitport Calvary Christian, which features a high school enrollment of around 60 students and is small enough to have three eighth-graders on its junior varsity team, fought valiantly at Muskegon Catholic Central's Ray Cioe Gymnasium Thursday evening, trailing the hosts by just a single point at the half.
All the Crusaders had to do was figure out a way to cool off Eagles' talented junior forward Michael Warren.
The 6-foot-6 Warren had 17 points on a tremendous shooting display in the first half, but MCC limited him to just two the rest of the way and pulled away for a 51-38 non-conference victory.
“Warren is just a great player,” said MCC coach Lamar Jordan, whose squad improves to 6-6 overall. “Of the 17 points he got in the first half, I thought all of those were pretty well contested. In the second half, I told our guys, 'let's not let him touch the ball.' I thought Brant (McCollum) did a great job of just denying him the ball.”
When McCollum wasn't swarming Warren, it was the coach's son, Lamar Jordan III. They literally paid little attention to the Eagles' ball handlers, and stuck to Warren like glue. When Warren did get the ball and tried to drive, MCC had a player shadowing and waiting to double.
“They started double-teaming him on the perimeter and taking away his touches,” said Calvary Christian coach Jim Warren, Michael's father. “Plus they did a good job fronting him in the post, and it was much harder feeding him the ball.
“Finally in the second half, we hit the back side with some skip passes, but we didn't do that quite enough.”
Jim Warren said his son had “the best shooting performance of his life,” in the opening 16 minutes, as he connected on a trio of 3-pointers and scored all but five of his team's first-half points.
After trailing 11-9 after one, the Eagles grabbed a 19-17 lead on Warren's second trey, and a 22-21 edge on his third triple.
“We’ve worked hard on his shot, so he isn’t just a post player,” Jim Warren said.
But a bucket by Crusaders' senior John Daniel — who led his team with 13 points — gave the hosts a 23-22 lead at the half.
Although Warren was held scoreless in the third, Fruitport Calvary was still in contention, thanks to scoring contributions from starting senior guard Mark Carlson, and a pair of sophomores in Isaac Burns and Brendan Hamilton.
“We had some nice putbacks of offensive rebounds and overall, I thought we played with poise,” Jim Warren said. “We had some other kids step up.”
But at the end of three, with his team up just 36-32, Jordan told his players that the Eagles had hung around long enough.
“I told them it was time to pick up the defensive intensity,” Jordan said. “And I thought our kids answered the bell.”
The Eagles went scorless for the first five minutes of the fourth quarter, until Michael Warren ended the drought with a short jumper — his only bucket of the second half.
MCC bruising power forward Cari Campbell got his team rolling, as he scored the quarter's first six points, including a steal and a coast-to-coast layup that put the Crusaders up 42-32.
“Catholic's so deep. They've got slashers, they've got shooters and they've got tough posts,” Jim Warren said. “It was just a little too much for us in the fourth.”
Campbell and Adam Callow scored 12 points apiece for MCC.
Fruitport Calvary, which falls to 7-5, had Carlson finish with 11 points and four assists. Warren also grabbed 10 rebounds to finish with a double-double.
Jordan was pleased with the win, but said it was more important to get a scouting report in place on the Eagles, considering the two schools will likely meet in the Class D district semifinals.
“It was a nice win, but it was more important to see what they had, because it was hard for me to get a chance to watch them or scout them,” he said. “Now I know what they go so we can prepare for them coming up for the districts.”