Actually, it was three Buccaneers who made key contributions in that pivotal offensive possession, helping the home team hold off the visiting Rams, 40-34, in a win that puts Grand Haven firmly in control of first place in the O-K Red Conference.
Rockford had trimmed a nine-point deficit down to one on a jumper by Rachel Henry with 1 minute, 34 seconds remaining. The Buccaneers came down on offense needing a spark, and instead nearly turned the ball over. Senior point guard Shar’Rae Davis dove to the floor to wrestle a loose ball away from a Rockford player and maintain possession for the Bucs.
Grand Haven got off a clean shot, which missed, but Cassie Holwerda tracked down the offensive rebound and fed Jordan Keefe, who swished a jumper from the elbow for a three-point lead.
After a defensive stop, Keefe was fouled and made two free throws, helping the Buccaneers seal the win.
“That last quarter was crazy,” said Davis, who scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds for the Bucs. “I was happy to see Jordan knock down that shot. I’m always telling her she needs to shoot the ball more.”
The late basket and free throws accounted for all four of Keefe’s points on the night.
The victory put No. 1-ranked Grand Haven two games ahead of both Rockford and East Kentwood in the O-K Red Conference race.
The win was especially sweet for Grand Haven because it came on Senior Night, and it was achieved without the services of leading scorer Alex Law, who missed the game with a knee injury. In addition, the Bucs were plagued with foul trouble for much of the evening as starters Keefe and center Abby Cole were whistled for several tough-luck fouls.
“I’m proud of this team,” said Bucs’ coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer, whose squad is now 15-1 overall. “This is a huge game as far as the conference goes, plus it was Senior Night, so there was a lot of emotion, and we’re playing without our four-year varsity player, our leading scorer in Alex. The kids just got it done.”
With Law and her deadly 3-point shooting missing from the lineup, Davis took control. She continually blew past her defender and got into the lane, where she was able to kick to an open teammate or put up a shot. Several of those layup tries rolled in and out, but she also drew several fouls and swished 7-of-8 foul shots.
“Davis, it’s hard to keep her from the basket,” said Rockford coach Jessica Yonkers, whose team is now 8-7 overall and 8-3 in league play. “When she penetrates, that opens things up for other girls. She’s a very tough player.”
The Buccaneers got off to a sluggish start against the Rams, relying on their defense to keep Rockford at bay. They finally got an offensive spark when Davis drove into the lane, spun away from pressure, hit a jumper and was fouled. She hit the free throw for a 7-1 lead.
The Bucs didn’t score again until Davis’ long 3-pointer splashed through the net at the buzzer to give her team a 10-3 advantage entering the second quarter.
Grand Haven carried a 24-16 lead into halftime, but suddenly went cold on the offensive end, scoring just three points in the third as Rockford closed to within three points on a late 3-pointer by Kim Weston and a pair of free throws by Kendra Bilardello.
The Bucs responded with a big run to open the fourth quarter.
First, Hannah Wilkerson broke down the Rams’ defense and drove in for the score. On defense, Abby Cole blocked a shot, then hustled down the court for a bucket and a 28-21 advantage. Another stop led to a drive and score by Davis, putting the Bucs up nine and forcing the Rams to burn a time out.
Rockford refused to quit, however, and Weston’s 3-pointer with 3:45 remaining trimmed the Bucs’ lead back down to three points, 31-28.
Davis scored again for the Bucs, but Henry answered with two free throws and a long jumper to pull her team back to within a point.
“We got up nine and I was hoping we could extend that lead, but then Weston hit a big 3-pointer,” Kowlaczyk-Fulmer said. “Basketball is a game of runs, and sometimes you get up, but you can’t let up, especially against a team with great offensive players like Rockford.
“I’m really proud of Jordan. She hit that clutch jumper at Grand Rapids Catholic Central, and she did it again tonight. The next possession, she got fouled and hit two free throws, and those were huge. That put us up five.”
Despite fighting foul trouble for most of the evening, Cole was the Bucs’ second-leading scorer with nine points. She also grabbed 10 rebounds and added two blocks.
Holwerda finished with three blocks and three steals, while Megan Newhouse also had three steals for Grand Haven.
Grand Haven closes out its regular-season schedule with road games at West Ottawa, Hudsonville, Grandville and Jenison. The Bucs beat those four teams the first time through the conference schedule by an average of 26 points.
Junior Varsity: Grand Haven held off a late Rockford rally to win, 55-45. Mallory Beswick scored 16 points to go with five assists and four steals while Krysteena Davis added 12 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. Amanda Merz scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds, while Jami Hogeboom and five rebounds, three blocks and four steals for the Bucs (16-0, 10- O-K Red).
Freshmen: Amy Kober’s huge double-double of 21 points and 16 rebounds led the Bucs (12-4, 9-2 O-K Red) to a key 43-40 win against Rockford. Sawyer Overway added 15 points and four steals, while Courtney Burnside was a defensive spark off the bench in the second half.