With a team featuring 10 juniors on its roster, Holland Christian girls basketball coach Crystal Strickland couldn’t have asked for anything more than a 20-20 halftime tie with defending Class A state champion Grand Haven.
The Buccaneers are a team accustomed to winning though, and they proved that right away in the second half, outscoring the Maroons 18-2 in the third quarter en route to a 44-31 win Tuesday night at Holland Christian High School.
Grand Haven upped its record to 3-0 with the victory, while Holland Christian dropped to 1-2 on the season.
“We definitely had a really hard time scoring in the third quarter and overall in the second half,” Strickland said. “Grand Haven is a great team and (6-foot-5 Buccaneer senior center) Abby Cole is just really tough to play against. She’s very tall and athletic and it’s just really hard to find ways to score against her.”
Cole, who is headed to the University of Michigan next fall on a full-ride volleyball scholarship, was a force inside all night for Grand Haven. She finished the night with eight points, 14 rebounds and 17 blocks and altered numerous other Holland Christian shots.
“I’m not used to playing this many minutes in a game,” said Cole, who played 29 of the game’s 32 minutes. “(When someone takes a shot) I’m thinking ‘This is my ball, you’re not getting it over me.’ I tell my teammates to trust me and I literally say ‘Step off your girl and let her come into the paint and I’ll be there.’”
Holland Christian finished the first half on a 10-4 run, with a 3-point play by Autumn Rooks and a driving lay-up from Bre Luurtsema tying the score at 20.
Grand Haven’s Hannah Wilkerson (six points) and Amanda Merz (five points) helped to put the game away though during the Buccaneers’ third quarter outburst.
“We kind of got soft defensively in the second quarter and (Holland Christian) was hitting some shots,” Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “Being tied at halftime was good for us though and we talked about coming out of the locker room and putting them away early and we did just that. We pushed the ball more and I think they got a little tired.”
Luurtsema had six points to lead Holland Christian. Alyssa Garvelink added 12 rebounds.
Wilkerson and Taylor Craymer scored 10 points each to pace Grand Haven.
Despite the loss, Strickland saw plenty of positives from her team.
“I’m really proud of how our girls played,” Strickland said. “It’s definitely encouraging to be tied with a great team like that at halftime. We’re gaining confidence and momentum as the season goes on and I think we’re going to be a tough team to beat by the end of the season.”
Junior Varsity: Holland Christian defeated Grand Haven, 35-24. Amy Kober finished with nine rebounds, five blocks and five points for the Bucs (2-1). Hanna Rinckeivcz added eight rebounds, two steals and five points, while Sawyer Overway chipped in with five points and four boards.
Freshmen: Grand Haven defeated Holland Christian, 42-25. Courtney Hylok paced the Bucs with 14 points, while Lindsey DeWitt totaled 10 points, six rebounds and seven steals. Alexis Stille also contributed six points and seven rebounds for the Bucs (2-1 overall).