The Bucs came home with an easy, breezy victory, doubling up the Rockets by a final score of 37-16. There was never a doubt Tuesday night, as Grand Haven led 14-4 at the first break, 23-7 at halftime and 32-13 going into the final frame.
Despite the lopsided score, Grand Haven head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer was looking for more from her team just three days before a showdown with the defending O-K Red champs, East Kentwood.
“We just didn’t play very well, I thought we played uninspired basketball,” she said. “I can’t really be upset, 50 percent of the teams in the state lost tonight. But, I didn’t think we got after it defensively like we are capable of, and I don’t think we had great ball movement. Our offense was a little stagnant.
“If we come out and play like that against East Kentwood, we won’t stand a chance. It seemed like we came out with a lot of energy and our press was pretty effective, but we missed a lot of layups and never really put them away. I thought we should have had our way with them tonight.”
The game started off all Bucs, as they jumped to a 7-0 lead. Reeths-Puffer scored the next four points before a 7-0 Grand Haven run finished off the first quarter.
The Rockets hit the first shot of the second quarter, and split a trip at the free-throw line to finish off their first-half scoring. Grand Haven hit four-of-four free throws, while Autumn Buikema converted a smooth midrange jumper and Alli Keyser nailed a three to bring the game into halftime.
Sophie Mariani and Maggie Long worked in the post for a bucket each in the third quarter, while Ashlyn Hall chipped in a two-pointer and Keyser nailed another three to grow the Grand Haven lead.
In the final frame, Hall hit one free throw to finish her scoring, while Grace Platz and Keyser each grabbed a two-point bucket to round out the game.
Keyser led the way in scoring for the Bucs with 14 points to go with four assists, three rebounds and five steals. Mariani followed with eight points and team-highs in rebounds with 11 and steals with seven. Buikema finished with six points ahead of Long with four, Lucy Toppen with three and Platz with two.
Parts of the Bucs’ struggles are identity-related, as the team deals with the reality of another major injury. Junior starting center Esther Byington is expected to sit the remainder of the season after a scheduled shoulder surgery later this month.
With fellow junior forward Kelly Olthof still sidelined with an offseason ACL tear, Kowalczyk-Fulmer and her team are searching for answers with their two tallest players sidelined.
“We are pretty disappointed,” Kowalcyzk-Fulmer said. “Hopefully, we are getting Kelly back in Feburary, but having two of your four best players on the bench at 6-2 and 6-4, that hurts. But, we still have to find a way to compete.”
The Bucs host East Kentwood on Friday for their Bucs’ Pride Night and hope to compete with the defending conference champs in front of a spirited, purple-clad home crowd.
“We have to handle and move the ball better and finish around the rim,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said of the impending matchup. “We weren’t ready to score (Tuesday). We had people passing up wide open three-pointers, which may be the best shot we get come Friday.
“We have to find that toughness and our scoring mentality. We are going to have to play a lot better if we want a shot. But, hey, that is why you play the game, for matchups like this one.”
Junior varsity: Grand Haven defeated Reeths-Puffer, 40-23. Olivia Dault led the Bucs with 13 points, ahead of Carley Wagasky with 11.
Freshmen: Grand Haven fell to Reeths-Puffer 33-36. Olivia Lovett and Eryn Beecham each scored eight points to lead the Bucs, while Ava Bouwman grabbed 10 rebounds.