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Ice Breaker: Jaxon Lisinski, Lamarkis Graham fine complements for North Muskegon basketball

Senior duo brings different things to the table for 22-0 Norsemen, but they mesh well.

In order to assemble a perfect regular season in high school basketball, it takes everybody playing their roles.

It requires selflessness and players stepping up at different times. It takes belief and some breaks. A squad may have to pull a victory or two from the jaws of defeat.

North Muskegon’s boys basketball team checked all those boxes en route to 22-0 regular season and No. 2 ranking in The Associated Press Michigan Division 3 poll. It’s the first unbeaten regular season in Norsemen basketball history. Now the Norse prepare for the “second season,” the state tournament, which tips off next week.

Balance is the key word for this North Muskegon squad. Any given night, a number of players can rise and lead the way. Game reports submitted by head coach Chuck Rypstra often list the leader with 16 to 23 points but then four to five others in the 7- to 14-point range.

Sophomore shooting guard and leading scorer Adam Dugener has been playing particularly well for the Norsemen down the stretch. Junior point guard James Young has steadied the ship throughout the season. Junior wing TJ Byard does some dirty work, but he’s a Swiss Army knife of sorts.

But when it comes to two players complementing each other’s games very well and meshing on the court, look no further than senior guards Jaxon Lisinski and Lamarkis Graham.

Photos by Mia Milner, CJ Bennett, and Scott DeCamp for CatchMark

In North Muskegon’s brand of positionless basketball this season, Lisinski and Graham bring different things to the table but both are extremely important to the Norsemen’s success.

“Lamarkis can do everything. He’ll shoot 3s but is most effective inside the 3-point line. Great mid-range shoter and great at driving to the rim. Great defender,” Young said.

“Jaxos is the best, true sharpshooter on the team. He can shoot it from everywhere and he is great at getting to the rim, causing lots of fouls.”

That’s on the court.

What about off the court?

Young said Graham is “very funny, outgoing, polite, and a great dancer,” while Lisinski is “very goofy but very friendly” and “chill.”

The 6-foot-3, 160-pound Graham, the 17-year-old son of Jillene Walton and Mark Graham, is averaging 13.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 2.5 steals. He is shooting 61.1 percent inside the 3-point arc, 26.3 percent beyond it, and 61.4 percent from the free-throw line.

The 6-2 1/2, 170-pound Lisinski, the 17-year-old son of Shelley Lisinski and the late Steven Lisinski, is averaging 12 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.3 steals. He is connecting on 54.3 percent of his shots inside the arc, 42.5 percent beyond it, and 73.8 percent from the foul line.

As two of five seniors on the North Muskegon roster, Graham and Lisinski have provided solid leadership for the team.

“They’re both really trying to be unselfish. I’m talking to them about it all the time, moving the ball around,” Rypstra said. “Sometimes it’s hard when you’ve been on the AAU circuit and you’ve scored a lot. You play six games in a weekend and you score all these points. Sometimes you don’t get the chance to do that (in high school basketball), so credit to them for making the right plays.”

North Muskegon defeated Pewamo-Westphalia, 28-27, in a Division 7 regional football finals thriller Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023, at Oakridge’s Russell A. Erickson Stadium in Muskegon, Mich. (Photo by CJ Bennett for CatchMark)

A winning culture is permeating through North Muskegon athletics this school year, particularly in the football and boys basketball teams. North Muskegon’s football team went 9-0 in the regular season in the fall and kept winning in the Division 7 playoffs, advancing to the state semifinals and finishing with a 12-1 overall record.

Graham played on the Norsemen football team. Lisinski did not, so he was often on his own for basketball workouts in preparation for this season.

With a number of football players also on the basketball team at North Muskegon, the success has seemed to carry over.

As for that winning attitude and the aforementioned belief piece, that was evident in North Muskegon’s last-second comeback over Montague, 47-45, on Jan. 31 in the Wildcats’ gym. Graham scored four points in the final 8.8 seconds to rally the Norsemen and keep them unbeaten, 15-0 at the time.

North Muskegon’s Lamarkis Graham makes two free throws in the closing seconds to rally his team to a wild 47-45 boys basketball victory over Montague on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, in Montague, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Fast forward to North Muskegon’s regular-season finale this Monday, Lisinski caught fire for a game-high 23 points in an 83-36 win at Holton. Graham was next in line with 18 points and five steals. Dugener followed with 16 points, while Byard and Young did a bit of everything.

If “Jigs” (Lisinski) and “Markie” (Graham) can keep it rolling, then the Norsemen could be even tougher to stop with state tournament time coming up.

Regardless of what happens with the Norse going forward this season, it’s been quite the ride with Lisinski and Graham driving much of the success.

“They’re both jokesters, they’re both good kids,” Rypstra said with a smile. “They play the music at practice. They’re the guys getting things together afterwards.

“They like to have a good time. Not super serious, but in their moments they can be. But they’ll also get intense and let guys know what to do, especially Markis, he gets it that way. Jaxon will keep it inside a little more and he’ll just play harder, but Markis will get more vocal.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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