Keefe jump-starts Buccaneers

Matt DeYoung • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:21 AM

A backup to starting point guard Shar’Rae Davis all of last year and for the first third of her senior season, Keefe was inserted into the Buccaneers’ starting lineup against Rockford on Jan. 10.

It’s not like the Bucs were struggling before the move — they were 6-1 heading into Rockford — but Keefe’s hard work caught the eye of coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, who decided the senior deserved a shot at starting.

“Coach just said she saw me working hard in practice and wanted to give me a chance to prove myself,” said Keefe, who is committed to Michigan State University’s track team.

“It’s nice, being my senior year,” Keefe added. “I just feel fortunate to be in this position.”

Kowalczyk-Fulmer said she noticed how much Keefe brought to the floor and figured she’d be a better fit with the other starters. The move also allowed junior Hannah Wilkerson to come off the bench and be much more productive. As a starter, Wilkerson had a harder time getting shots while playing alongside sharp-shooting guard Alex Law and 6-foot-5 center Abby Cole, both of whom are focal points of the Bucs’ offense.

Plus, Keefe brings outstanding defense to the guard spot, and she seems to have a special connection with Cole. The two have played extensively together over the past several years, and Keefe has a knack for finding Cole down low.

“Jordan is a defensive machine,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “She’s such a great on-the-ball defender. We put her on the other team’s best player and she causes them all sorts of problems. She runs our offense well. She’s averaging two assists a game and is second in steals behind Shar’Rae. Plus, she has the fewest turnovers of any guard. She takes great care of the ball.”

And at just 5-6, Keefe isn’t afraid to tangle with taller players when the ball comes off the rim. She averages three rebounds per game.

“She’s such a great competitor,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said.

Keefe doesn’t look to score, but she doesn’t shy away from the big shot. During the Bucs’ win over No. 2-ranked Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Jan. 17, Keefe had misfired on a few open jumpers early in the game, but she didn’t hesitate when she had a chance to seal the game in the closing minute.

“She had missed a few shots, but in the fourth, she hit a baseline jumper to put us up three late in the game, and that was our biggest shot of the night,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “She plays within herself and she makes her teammates better. And in the biggest games, she’s relentless. She’s a tremendous competitor.

“She’s earned her spot.”

Now Keefe and the Buccaneers hope to earn the outright lead in the O-K Red Conference. Grand Haven travels to East Kentwood on Tuesday to tangle with the state-ranked Falcons.

East Kentwood handed Grand Haven its lone loss of the season back on Dec. 16. The Bucs have not lost since that game, while the Falcons were upset by Rockford last week Tuesday. Both teams are 7-1 in league play.

“We’re ready to face them again,” Keefe said. “We think we can beat them this time. That loss made us realize that even though we were working hard, we have to keep our head in every game and take each game at a time.”

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