The host Sailors tied the game at 12-12 and 17-17 midway through the second quarter, but the resilient Buccaneers answered at every turn to take a 29-22 lead at halftime.
In the second half, Grand Haven ratcheted up the defensive pressure and rolled to a 57-37 win.
“I didn’t think we played our best game, tonight,” said Grand Haven head coach Greg Immink. “I’m not sure if it was early game jitters or what, but we just had trouble doing some of the basic things that we’ve done well all year: catching the ball, rebounding, and passing.
“We persevered through that tough stretch, however, and it ended up being a good night for the Bucs.”
Immink thought his team lost its collective focus in the second quarter, after racing out to a 12-5 lead early on.
“We talked about having a little more focus at halftime,” Immink added. “I think we just got a little too loose maybe in that second quarter. The important thing is that you have one more point on the scoreboard at the end of the game than your opponent. You can’t fuss about not playing your best, because there’s no time to feel sorry for yourself.”
Sophomore point guard Casey Constant scored 12 points to lead the Bucs (17-4), while senior guard Clay Landsman added 11 and senior wing Zac Holman chipped in with eight.
“Casey has been playing really well the last half of the season,” Immink said of his starting point guard. “He’s able to get into the lane, hit some outside shots, and really put stress on their perimeter defense.
“Clay had excellent game tonight, as well. He was hit some big free throws, and he rebounded really well from his guard position. He did a lot of the little things that we needed. He also brought great energy when we needed it during that lull we had.
“Zac had some really important baskets for us early in the fourth quarter that helped us pull away a little bit. He and Ross (Koella) didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but they made a lot of winning plays down the stretch.”
Freshman wing Jay Walker scored 15 points, including an 8-for-13 shooting performance from the free throw line, to lead the Sailors (7-14), while sophomore forward Ben Rosenthal added eight.
The Buccaneers will have to turn the page quickly, as they prepare to take on a Grand Rapids Union (14-6) squad that finished third in the O-K Black Conference this season and will challenge the perimeter defense of the Bucs.
“Wednesday is another game, and we have to put this game behind us and focus in on a very talented Grand Rapids Union team,” Immink added. “They’ve won 14 games this year, and they’ve got some talented guards.
“They’ve also got some size in the frontcourt as well, so we have to do good job of containing penetration, and then we have to win the battle on the boards. We have to finish defensive possessions with rebounds and not give them any extra looks.”
The test from Mona Shores should serve the team well, as Immink views Union as a comparable opponent in terms of matchups, strengths and weaknesses.
“I think it’s a similar game to what we will see on Wednesday,” said Immink. “The pace of the game, the defensive pressure, the attacking of the guards off the dribble; those are all things we will see from Union on Wednesday. Hopefully, we can clean up some of those details and put together a better game as well and keep our season going.”
Tip is set for 6 p.m. between the Buccaneers and the Red Hawks on Wednesday at Muskegon High School, followed by the other semifinal matchup, which will pit undefeated Muskegon (21-0) against Kenowa Hills (6-14).