TRAVERSE CITY -- The Muskegon Western Michigan Christian students started chanting "Back to Breslin" in the closing seconds of Tuesday's Class D state quarterfinal at Traverse City Central.
If Tuesday was any indication, the Warriors will be running wild all over Michigan State's Breslin Center later this week.
Muskegon WMC used its speed as an advantage for an 80-51 win over Buckley to advance to the state semifinals.
"That meant a lot," Warriors guard London Burris said of the speed advantage. "Speed and defense basically wins games. So if we have that, we can be unstoppable."
The Warriors (24-2) will be looking to win their third straight state championship this week. First, they will play Covert in the semifinals on Thursday.
"I think the theme is don't beat yourself," WMC coach Jim Goorman said when asked what was the key for his team this week. "That's a negative theme and not the theme I want, but it's a fact. If we stick together, good things are going to happen. We've got momentum right now."
"We've got to take it one step at a time, but it felt good to get this one," said Evan Bruinsma, the Class D Player of the Year. "We've got two more games left and we've got to come out strong like we did tonight."
Muskegon WMC's running game ended what had become a memorable ride for Buckley. The Bears (18-7) earned their first regional title since 1998 and received a lot of community support for the run.
"It's my hope that it will give us some momentum," Buckley's second-year coach Rene LaFraniere III said. "If you're going to build a program from the bottom up, it usually takes 5-6 years before you see anything come of it. We were fortunate to have some athletes."
Buckley was able to hang with the Warriors early as Bruinsma had an offensive rebound and put-back with 2 seconds left for a 17-12 WMC lead after one quarter.
But then it was all Warriors.
Muskegon WMC opened the second quarter on an 18-4 run and led 37-18 at the break.
Burris was a big part of the run with eight straight points. Three of the buckets came in transition off Bears' turnovers.
"They come at you from 10 different directions, that's for sure," LaFraniere said. "They're the quickest team we've seen all year. They were cherry-picking guys on every shot, and that's tough because we wanted to crash the glass and see if we could get boards. But no such luck."
Burris finished the game with 26 points, five steals and three assists. He also drew the assignment of guarding Buckley's Josh Ledford.
"Coach said to play head-up, man-to-man and don't help out on D, because he was one of the best players," Burris said. "He is one of the best players, I'll give him his props. But coach said don't give him no air space."
The guard play was key for Muskegon WMC, since Buckley had size in the paint with Jeff Dreves and Drew Corwin to contend with Bruinsma and center Tyler Ray.
"It was tough rebounding, but we were able to use our quickness with the guards to make sure we got out on the fast breaks," Bruinsma said.
The Warriors kept attacking in the third quarter. Burris had a 4-point play after getting fouled on a made 3-pointer and converting the free throw. And Bruinsma's basket in the paint plus the foul with 2:29 to go made it 58-28 Warriors.
"Top team in Class D," LaFraniere said. "We knew it coming in and they proved it."
Bruinsma added 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals while point guard Jeff Burris had four points and 10 assists.
"The two Burris boys had phenomenal games," Goorman said. "Jeff Burris is like the straw that stirs the drink. He gets everyone going. He'd rather get an assist than a basket. And London benefitted from a lot of fast-break points."
Ledford had 11 points for Buckley while Dreves had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Corwin and Joel Ledford each scored six points.
"You look at the whole game, I thought our total game was good," Goorman said. "At halftime we felt good about the 18 they had. The second half we let up a little bit on defense and (Buckley) fought hard to the end. You've got to give Buckley credit. They've had a great year."
Buckley will have a different look next year after losing 10 seniors.
"These underclassmen got some experience and hopefully that rubs off on some of the junior high kids," LaFraniere said. "I've got a fourth, a fifth and a sixth-grade manager that would have suited up if they could tonight. A couple of years down the road, we're going to be back here. We're going to be back."
The Bears can hope that if they see the Warriors again, it's not in Traverse City.
"I've been coaching for 31 years, I've only lost once here," Goorman said. "We've had good luck. The only time we've lost was to Maple City Glen Lake in 1981 when I'm coaching. I love going here, I love getting in that locker room. We have a routine. We stop off at a little church in Baldwin, a couple of ladies give us cupcakes and brownies. It's kind of a tradition all the stuff that goes on. Traverse City has been very good to us."