The Buccaneers, champions of the O-K Red Conference, took Friday’s 61-31 victory over Mona Shores to claim the Class A district championship in stride.
“We’ve worked really hard for this,” said senior Cassie Holwerda, who finished with four points and five rebounds on Friday. “It’s not like this was just handed to us.
We’re all really excited. But we’re taking this one game at a time.”
Added classmate Alex Law: “This is just the first step. We’ve got a lot more to go.”
The Buccaneers, 22-1 overall and ranked No. 1 in the state, took one step closer to reaching their ultimate goal of a state championship with Friday’s 30-point victory over a pesky Mona Shores team that had won 16 games this winter.
“We felt that for us to win, Grand Haven had to be a little bit off their game, and we’d have to play our best,” said Sailors’ coach Brad Kurth. “Neither of those things happened.”
To see more photos from Friday's game, click here.
With five guards in the starting lineup, the Sailors couldn’t contend with the Buccaneers and their wealth of size, including 6-foot-5 center Abby Cole and four other players who stand 5-11 or taller.
“That’s the hardest thing about Grand Haven is scoring against them, especially with Abby Cole in the middle,” Kurth said.
Grand Haven’s defense was on display in the opening quarter as the Bucs held the Sailors to just two points. Mona Shores actually scored the game’s first two points on a pair of free throws by sophomore Jasmyn Walker.
Grand Haven then ripped off 17 consecutive points to take control of the contest. It was a complete team effort from the start for Grand Haven. Megan Newhouse scored four points for the Bucs, and Alex Law drilled a long 3-pointer. Five other Grand Haven players scored buckets in the opening stanza, including Kaeding Skelton’s basket to put the visitors ahead 17-2.
Mona Shores opened the second quarter with a Walker 3-pointer, but Grand Haven answered with triples by Law and Shar’Rae Davis and a fantastic three-point play by Hannah Wilkerson off a beautiful pass from Davis.
The Bucs led 31-11 at the half as they held the Sailors to just three field goals in the opening 16 minutes.
“We just had to play our game,” Holwerda said. “We’re trying to play really aggressive on defense, and on outside, move it from the post to the outside and just use everyone.”
“The kids did a really good job of guarding their dribblers and boxing out,” said Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer. “We have a good offense, but defense has really been our strength.”
The Sailors tried to rattle Grand Haven by double-teaming the Bucs’ players each time they pulled down a rebound. The Bucs uncharacteristically turned the ball over 25 times, but they also took advantage of the Sailors’ pressure to score several easy fast-break points.
“We play so many players, so we try to get out on the break more and wear teams down,” Law said.
Law finished with a game-high 14 points, including four 3-pointers. She also had three assists. Newhouse added eight points and 10 rebounds, while Wilkerson and Kaeding Skelton each had seven points. Skelton added five rebounds while Wilkerson led the team with four assists.
In all, 12 different Buccaneers scored.
Walker led Mona Shores with 13 points while Brigid Kiley scored nine. Only six Sailors made it into the scorebook.
Grand Haven won’t learn its regional semifinal opponent until tonight, when Traverse City Central (13-9) and Petoskey (13-9) face off at 7 p.m. in Traverse City.
The winner of that game meets Grand Haven on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Cadillac High School.