It’s often difficult to find faults with an undefeated team, but Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer felt her girls had been playing down to the level of their competition during their recent contests.
Friday, with an archrival in town and a special Bucs’ Pride Cancer Awareness game to play for, the Bucs found it easier to play up to their potential.
Grand Haven raced out to a tremendous first-quarter start, withstood Rockford’s best punch in a tight third quarter, and then turned up the intensity again defensively in the fourth quarter, propelling the Bucs to a 46-30 victory.
Grand Haven improves to 11-0 this season, and remains on top of the O-K Red Conference at 2-0. Rockford, which was thought to be one of the Bucs’ top competitors in league play, falls to 6-4 overall and 1-1 in conference action.
The Bucs, who sported purple warm-up tops to celebrate the Bucs’ Pride game, were hyped to prove themselves, said guard Mallory Beswick, who scored six points and led the team with three steals.
“We always look forward to these (Cancer Awareness) games,” she said. “It was an even bigger game with Rockford here and this just adds an extra element to play for. We were ready to put it out there.”
The Bucs’ warm-ups each had a name on the back of a friend, family member or loved one who had been affected by cancer. Beswick’s shirt featured her great grandfather, who passed away from prostrate cancer. To keep his memory alive, Beswick presented her shirt and a big hug to her grandmother, Peg Beswick. Grand Haven’s boys did the same following their earlier contest against Rockford.
“I think it’s just a wonderful gesture that the school holds these fundraisers,” Peg Beswick said.
Grand Haven raised a significant amount of money for the cause from local business donations and T-shirt sales, as well as $522 put into donation buckets from fans in attendance.
Peg Beswick also enjoyed seeing her granddaughter’s squad play with a warrior’s mentality against a tough Rockford team.
Grand Haven played with a fierce defensive determination early, helping it build a lead of 18-5 after one and 29-17 at the half. The Bucs pumped the ball down low to 6-foot-5 senior Abby Cole early and often and she responded with a near triple double — 21 points, 15 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Cole played on a slightly injured knee and Kowalcyzk-Fulmer said that as of Thursday, it was nearly 50-50 that she would play on Friday. Cole injured the knee earlier in the week in practice and had a large contusion as well as a slightly sprained MCL. With Grand Haven’s head trainer, Patrick Wykes, out of the country, Cole instead received tremendous treatment from local trainers leading up to the game, including from Grand Valley State University’s head trainer.
Grand Haven faces arguably its toughest stretch of competition in the coming week as it hosts Class B powerhouse Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Tuesday, and then arguably its greatest challenger in the O-K Red, Grandville, on Friday.
“Those are the two best teams on our schedule and they’re both next week,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said.
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