Not only are the Buccaneers playing for the first state championship in school history — they're also playing for the chance to bring some happiness to a community that was devastated by Friday's car accident that seriously injured five Grand Haven teens.
"Obviously, our thoughts are with those girls, and we're going to go out there today and play for them," said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, whose team will face Grosse Pointe South at noon today in the Class A state title game at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
"We have something we can offer this community today," Kowalczyk-Fulmer continued. "We can bring a lot of joy and excitement in a really stressful time."
The accident happened as five Buccaneer junior girls were traveling to East Lansing for Friday's semifinal contest. Kowalczyk-Fulmer learned of the accident prior to tip-off, but the Bucs' players didn't get the news until after the game.
"I think our kids are doing OK now," Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. "I don't know if they know all the details yet. It's not that we're not talking about it, but we can't dwell on it. We're focusing on what we can control, and what we can control is to go out there and play our best."
The Buccaneers watched Friday's second semifinal, then headed to their hotel in Okemos. They went out to dinner as a team, then headed to their respective rooms.
"We were all really tired," Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. "I was just exhausted. The coaching staff watched film and the girls all headed off to their rooms."
Grosse Pointe South (23-3) offers a serious challenge to the top-ranked Bucs (26-1).
"They're guard-oriented, and I'm sure they're going to bring the pressure," Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. "They have one girl who's 6-1 and after that they're 5-10 and shorter. Obviously, (Bucs' 6-5 center) Abby (Cole) was effective yesterday blocking shots, but we didn't go to her offensively. Today, we're going to pound the ball inside.
"We're a senior-dominated team. We've got to come out and play how we know how, take care of the ball against the press and play good defense without fouling."