GRAND HAVEN TWP. — West Ottawa girls basketball head coach Paul Chapman thought he had a winning formula in place Tuesday night, as his team traveled to the Grand Haven Fieldhouse to take on the undefeated Buccaneers in O-K Red Conference play.
After splitting with Grand Haven last year, Chapman knew he couldn't let senior standout Alli Keyser get going if his Panthers squad was going to pull off the road upset.
His initial plan worked, as West Ottawa's plethora of matchup zone defenses did hold Keyser to just seven points. However, Grand Haven junior sharpshooter Jolee Houle caught fire from deep, scoring 21 points, including a 5-for-10 performance from behind the arc, to help push the Buccaneers to a 44-30 win over the Panthers.
"I like how our girls battled tonight," said West Ottawa head coach Paul Chapman. "We had plenty of opportunities to stay within striking distance, but we missed a few putbacks and a few bunnies at the rim. Grand Haven is one of the better teams in our league, and Jolee shot the ball extremely well for them tonight.
"Alli (Keyser) is a heck of a player, too, and they have some good post players. I like how we battled with them, but we just didn't get it done. We got killed on the boards in the first half."
Grand Haven started the game with a slim 12-9 lead after the first quarter, but went on a 9-2 run midway through the second quarter to grab a 25-15 lead at halftime.
The third-quarter saw the Buccaneers' defense ignite some fast-break opportunities for Keyser and Houle, but West Ottawa would just enough plays to stay in the game and only trail 36-24 after the third quarter.
Grand Haven's trapping zone defense eventually wore down the Panthers, as West Ottawa only managed six points in the fourth quarter. The Buccaneers would add a few putbacks and fast-break buckets to extend their lead to 44-30 as time expired.
Houle finished with a game-high 21 points, three assists and two steals, while Keyser added seven points, six assists and four steals. Kelly Olthof added 10 points and nine rebounds, while Esther Byington added four points, eight rebounds and three blocks.
"We wanted to make someone else beat us," said Chapman of his team's gameplan. "Alli is a great player, and she affects the game in so many different ways. She doesn't have to score to dominate the game. She can get her teammates involved and play great defense and really change the complexion of the game. We were able to slow her down on offense tonight, but they had a great shooting night from a few other people."
Senior Natalie Dunn led the Panthers with 19 points.
"Natalie is a good player, and she had to really work for her points tonight," added Chapman. "I think she took it upon herself to make something happen at times, and eventually, that wore her down a little bit. Alexa Borgman played her first game of the year tonight, she was active on the boards. We knew it wasn't going to be easy to win here, and they played better than we did and they deserved to win."
STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Despite improving to 7-0 overall and 1-0 in the league, Grand Haven head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer was hoping to see more of a killer instinct from her squad Tuesday night.
"I'm happy to get the win because every league win is important, but I just didn't feel like we played with a sense of urgency at times tonight," she said. "We started a little slow, and we never really put them away once we got up by eight to 10 points.
"Nothing's broken, but we need to come out a little faster and close teams out when we take a lead like that. We know the season is a marathon and not a sprint, so we'll get back to work tomorrow and hopefully get better.
"Jolee had a nice game today, and she really shot the ball well. Kelly and Esther did a nice job on the boards, and they really made Natalie Dunn take difficult shots whenever she took the ball inside."
Junior varsity: West Ottawa defeated Grand Haven, 47-38. Caydee Constant led the Bucs with 12 points, while Zoe Spoelman and Alyssa Hatzel chipped in with 10 points each.