Grand Haven girls hoops team falls to Ann Arbor Huron

Tribune Staff • Dec 30, 2017 at 1:41 AM

The Grand Haven girls basketball team traveled to Detroit for the Motor City Roundball Classic on Friday.

The Buccaneers took on highly touted Ann Arbor Huron in their matchup, and couldn't complete a valiant comeback attempt, falling to the River Rats, 43-37.

Junior point guard Alli Keyser put on a show for the Buccaneers, scoring 25 points, including five second-half 3-pointers, and added five rebounds and four steals. Anna Strom and Sophie Mariani each added three points and seven rebounds to help fend off a lengthy Huron team.

"We always want to play good competition, and it was nice to get tested like this before we play teams like East Kentwood," said Grand Haven head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer. "I'd rather lose a close game like this and learn from it than play an inferior team and win by 30, 40 points and not really get better."

Grand Haven fell behind 12-6 early on and found themselves down 17 points late in the second quarter. The Buccaneers clawed back in the second half, however, and brought the game to within one possession with two minutes left in the game.

After expending so much energy with their comeback attempt, the Buccaneers' surge lost steam down the final stretch and Huron was able to escape with a 43-37 win.

"We just started really slow and that put us an in a bad spot," Kowalczyk-Fulmer continued. "We had a tough shooting night for some kids, but we didn't roll over even though we were down 17 at one point. I really liked the fight we showed, and I think if a few bounces went our way, we could have come away with a win."

The Buccaneers were forced to shuffle their lineup with the absence of 6-3 center Esther Byington, who is nursing a shoulder injury.

"I was proud the kids' effort tonight, especially with some of the lineup changes we had to make," Kowalczyk-Fulmer added. "At one point in the game we had guards playing at the bottom of our zone, and that created some mismatches. At the same time, I thought Sophie and Anna did an excellent job on the boards.

"Alli put on a shooting clinic in the second half. She was really dialed in with her shot, and she made a lot of big plays for us. She's still battling through that ankle injury, but it didn't seem to slow her down today."

Eden Johnson scored 17 points to lead Huron (7-1).

"Huron had two post players who are 6-feet or taller, and they made it difficult to shoot over them," Kowalczyk-Fulmer added. "Johnson probably five or six blocks by herself. Their two post players scored 30 of their 43 points."

Despite the loss, the experience should serve the Buccaneers well as they prepare for Reeths-Puffer on Tuesday, followed by their highly anticipated O-K Red Conference opener on Jan. 5, when they host top-ranked East Kentwood.

"Overall, it was a fun experience," Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. "We took a charter bus to and from Detroit with the parents of the players, and we got to compete against a team we could see in the postseason if we are lucky enough to advance that far. I think we'll be a much different team at that point in time, but I was happy to see the kids that played today go out there and compete from start to finish."

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