Top 10 boys basketball games of the year
No. 9: Mustangs spoil Sundling’s career 30-point night
RAPID RIVER — There are a lot of things in sports that intrigue people, which is why they have so many fans. No matter what level of competition, one thing that always gets fans excited is when one team is considered the better team, but the other team has the best player.
That’s exactly what was on display back on Jan. 8 when Rapid River hosted Munising. The Mustangs entered the game unbeaten at 6-0, but Rockets senior point guard Tyler Sundling was deemed “the best player in the Skyline (Central Conference)” by Mustangs coach Terry Kienitz.
It was a classic match-up that featured multiple lead changes and runs by each team, but the Mustangs just made more plays down the stretch to remain unbeaten and spoil Sundling’s career-high 30-point game with a 54-50 victory.
“We needed a game like this,” Kienitz said afterwards. “The kids marked this game on their calendar. This game has turned into our rivalry game. We’ve been butting heads for four years, so it’s a big game, it’s a big win for them on the road… It’s always tough to win on the road. I think it was probably our first signature win of the season. It was something that we needed.”
After Munising started the game on a 15-4 run, the Rockets responded with an 11-4 spurt to pull within 19-15 at the end of the first quarter.
From that point on, the game went back and forth the rest of the way.
Munising led 41-40 entering the fourth quarter, then built its lead to 48-43 after a free throw by Austin Killips with 5:24 left. Griffin Flath, making his first career varsity start, then drilled a big 3-pointer from the left wing on the next possession to pull the Rockets within 48-46.
After Munising went back up 52-48, Sundling cut the Rockets’ deficit to two with a pair of free throws with 1:34 remaining. The Rockets got the ball back trailing 53-50 with 55 seconds left, but the Mustangs came up with a big defensive stop and Killips hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 54-50 with 21.9 ticks to go. The Mustangs’ defense then forced Sundling into a miss on a tough, contested 3-point try with just seven seconds left, and they grabbed the rebound to secure the win.
“It was only a four-point game coming down to the end and they hit their free throws down the stretch,” Rockets coach Mitch Hall said. “I think we were in a good position to win, it just didn’t come that way.”
Munising switched to a 2-3 zone late in the game to help keep Sundling out of the lane. In addition to his 30 points, he finished with five rebounds, four steals and one blocked shot. Tony DeMars chipped in 10 points, while Flath added seven points and seven boards.
“(Sundling’s) probably the best player I’ll play all year,” Kienitz said. “He’s definitely the best player in the Skyline, and he’s probably the best player in Division 4, just because he’s got all the tools. He’s quick, he can drive, he finishes so well, he can shoot well… He’s got the all-around game, and he’s a good defender.”
Killips led the Mustangs with 20 points, while Jason Cornish and Josh Huotari each had 12.
The teams shot nearly identical, with Munising going 20 for 47 from the field and the Rockets shooting 20 for 48. The Mustangs had 16 turnovers, while the Rockets had 10.
“I think it was a tight game through the whole game, besides how we started the game,” Hall said. “We got off in a big hole to begin with, and I was proud of the guys for how they kept their chin up. They fought back.”