The Grand Haven and Ludington girls basketball teams finished with a combined 48-2 record last winter.
And while both teams lost key players from those outstanding squads, the Buccaneers showed on Tuesday that they’re closer to mimicking last year’s finish than the Orioles.
Grand Haven defeated visiting Ludington on Tuesday, 41-26, in a showdown between two of the premier programs in West Michigan.
“They were ranked No. 1 in Class B last year, so we came in with the mentality that they were a solid team,” said Buccaneers’ senior Taylor Craymer, who led all scorers with 18 points.
The difference is, the Orioles graduated a majority of their team from last year. This year’s squad features just one senior — Autumn Sorenson, along with seven juniors, five sophomores and a pair of freshmen.
“We were really excited about the opportunity to come in and play Grand Haven — a program that everybody tries to measure themselves against,” said Orioles’ coach Thad Shank, whose team falls to 2-1. “We graduated 90 percent of our scoring last year, and we only have girl who has been committed to basketball in this senior class, so we’re an exceptionally young basketball team.”
Still, the Orioles showed off a scrappiness that gave the Buccaneers fits at times. But in the end, Grand Haven’s primary ball handlers — Amanda Merz, Mallory Beswick and Craymer — were able to withstand Ludington’s constant full-court pressure.
“We’ve gotten by this year getting our offense from our defense,” Shank said. “Grand Haven is too good at the skill positions for us to be able to turn them over and create that offense.”
That left the Orioles looking lost on the offensive end in the first half, thanks in part to the Buccaneers’ hectic 2-3 zone. Grand Haven carried a 19-9 lead into the halftime break. The advantage could have been much greater, but the Bucs struggled terribly shooting the ball in the opening half.
“It felt like there was a lid on the rim,” Craymer said. “Our outside shots weren’t falling, so I figured we had to go inside.”
Craymer scored her game-high 18 points on a variety of great cuts to the basket, taking her defender off the dribble and also moving well without the ball and taking great feeds from her teammates.
Read more of this story in today's print edition or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.