There will be no strangers on the court when Grand Haven and Grandville meet with a Class A girls basketball regional championship on the line tonight at Grand Rapids Northview.
The Buccaneers (24-0) and the Bulldogs (18-6) have met twice already this year, so there is plenty of familiarity between the two O-K Red Conference rivals.
But two players in particular have a special bond — the Bucs’ Hannah Wilkerson and the Bulldogs’ Elizabeth Otten.
The pair has played together on the same AAU basketball team the past several years. They’ll get to know each other a little better tonight as they will go head-to-head with a regional championship — and a berth in the Class A state quarterfinals — on the line.
Otten is the Bulldogs’ top scorer at 14 points per game, and Wilkerson is the Bucs’ best defender.
When the teams first met at Grandville on Jan. 25, Otten didn’t play because she was out sick. She scored 11 points in the second meeting between the two teams, played on Feb. 15 at Grand Haven.
The Bucs won the first showdown at Grandville, 40-32, and took the second meeting and Grand Haven, 57-44.
Buccaneers’ coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer sang the praises of the versatile and explosive Wilkerson, who can do a little of everything on the court.
“Hannah always guards the other team’s best player,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said, “and she usually holds them below their average. Not only does she shut them down, but then on our end, she’s averaging 10.7 points per game and shooting 70 percent on her free throws.”
“Last year, she was more of a role player for us, but this year, she’s a huge piece of the puzzle with her scoring ability, her ability to hit the outside shot and to slash to the basket. She can beat most people off the dribble.”
Despite the fact that she uses up a tremendous amount of energy on the defensive end, Wilkerson is second on the Bucs in scoring. She scored a season-high 22 points in the Bucs’ win over a tough Wayland team earlier in the year.
Wilkerson is second on the Bucs in assists at 2.3 per game, and is second on the team with 40 steals. Prior to the start of the season, she accepted a scholarship to play basketball at Ferris State University next year.
Wilkerson and Otten aren’t the only ones on the floor on Thursday who have a history of playing alongside one another.
Bucs’ center Abby Cole and Bulldogs’ center Jessica Dood are teammates on the volleyball court during the club season. The 6-foot-5 Cole has gotten the best of the 6-2 Dood so far this year, outscoring Dood 30-24 the teams’ previous two meetings. Cole had a combined 12 blocked shots in the two games.
The winner of tonight’s game advances to Lansing Eastern High School to face either Grand Ledge (20-4) or Mattawan (15-9). Those two teams meet tonight at Holt.