Photos by Brent Raeth | CatchMark
HART — The stands were packed Thursday night for one of the West Michigan Conference’s most pronounced rivalries. The home Hart crowd was exuberant, but Shelby senior Joseph Hayes did everything in his power to keep them to a dull roar.
The four-year varsity starter picked an exciting atmosphere to sink a career-high 40 points. Hayes’ performance led the Tigers to a 63-55 victory over the Pirates in the CatchMark SportsNet Game of the Week.
“(Hayes) was solid, but I didn’t notice if it was all Joseph … I just looked up and saw, ‘Hey, we have a good lead,'” Shelby coach Rick Zoulek said of Hayes’ surprisingly hushed performance.
“That’s the type of kid he is. The whole game he plays that way. Even when he made some mistakes, he doesn’t let it bother him. Joe is a very composed young man, I trust him, his teammates trust him, he can pass, can shoot, he can dribble, and he can rebound.”
The Tigers jumped out to 37-23 halftime advantage featuring a 24-point first half from Hayes. The Pirates struggled, but they didn’t quite let the game slip away from them.
Trailing 14 points at halftime, Hart’s diligence took control. The relentless Pirates fought their way back to even up the score at 51 midway through the fourth quarter.
“Once it got back to zero-zero, we seemed to regain our focus and play a little tough again. I was really pleased with how we responded, but I told them, ‘Just don’t do that next time because it’s hard on this guy’s heart,'” Zoulek said with a chuckle.
Some timely shots and an abundance of clutch free throws down the stretch allowed Shelby to advance its lead and lock up another key victory in a competitive West Michigan Conference race.
Hayes was 11-of-18 from the field and 16-of-18 from the free-throw line in his 40-point exhibit for the Tigers.
Parker Hovey paced the Pirates with 23 points.
“When you have as many good solid teams as the West Michigan Conference does this year, you’re going to see some great basketball.” Zoulek said.
Joseph Hayes 40 points, 9 rebounds
Bishop Lee 9 points, 10 rebounds
Carson Claeys 8 points, 3 assists
Parker Hovey 23 points
Caleb Bitely 12 points
Tony Rayo 7 points, 6 rebounds
Shelby 7-3 overall, 5-2 WMC
Hart 4-5 overall, 2-5 WMC
Shelby at North Muskegon, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Hart at Mason County Central, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
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