With two monumental matchups looming against East Kentwood and Rockford in the next seven days, the Buccaneers used Tuesday night's game as a chance to honor seven seniors in the program while getting in fighting shape for the two games that will likely define their season.
Grand Haven scored a unanimous decision on the scoreboard, dropping the Scots for a 47-31 home win to keep pace with the Rams and Falcons in the league race.
"We didn't play as well as we could have, but we also did some things well in spots," said Grand Haven head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer. "Our guards rebounded well on defense and we shot the ball well in the first half, but we let them hang around in that third quarter and make things kind of stressful early in the fourth quarter."
Due to rescheduling efforts with the aftermath of severe winter weather wiping out the better part of two weeks of action, Tuesday night's game won't be the last home contest for the Buccaneers, but it did serve as a chance for the basketball community to honor the careers of seniors Alli Keyser, Kelly Olthof, Anna Strom, Esther Byington, Olivia McMullen, Dahlia Jerovsek and Ashlyn Hall.
"It was Senior Night, though, so I was happy for our seven seniors to get a win at home," said Kowalczyk-Fulmer. "That's a pretty special senior class. Those seven girls have put a lot of time into the Grand Haven basketball program and have been excellent role models for the younger girls in our program and our community as a whole.
"They deserve a lot of credit and it was nice to honor them before the game and give them some well-deserved recognition for their special careers here."
The Buccaneers jumped out to a 14-5 first-quarter lead that extended to 25-12 at halftime thanks to some excellent 3-point shooting from Keyser, Strom and Jolee Houle.
However, the third quarter saw the Fighting Scots throw some counters at the Bucs, outscoring Grand Haven 13-9 in the frame to cut the deficit to just 34-29 early on in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers withstood the flurry by the opposition and showed some championship poise down the stretch, finishing the game on a 13-2 run to close out the Scots on Senior Night.
"It was a Tuesday night, so there weren't a ton of people in the stands, but we had a lot of energy as a team," said senior forward Kelly Olthof. "There are seven seniors on the roster, so we definitely wanted to win this one.
"It's kind of a strange feeling because it's technically Senior Night, but we still have two more games at home plus a chance to play at home in the regionals, so Coach K wanted us not to get too emotional. I thought we handled it well."
Keyser scored 17 points and added six assists, six rebounds and four steals to lead the Bucs, while Olthof added eight points and five rebounds.
Strom scored seven points and added three assists and three rebounds, Houle added seven points, Jerovsek had four points and two rebounds, Byington had two points and seven rebounds and Hall added two points.
"You always kind of know how you're going to do after those first few shots," Olthof added. "Tonight, I made that first shot and felt pretty confident. After that, I knew I was in a rhythm, so I didn't really need a ton of space to get my shot off."
Grand Haven (15-2, 8-2 O-K Red) will travel to East Kentwood (12-4, 8-2 O-K Red) on Friday in a pivotal road matchup against the Falcons. A Buccaneers' road win would set up an O-K Red Conference showdown between Grand Haven and Rockford (13-4, 8-2 O-K Red) on Feb. 26 at the Grand Haven Fieldhouse with a share of the league title on the line.
"It's going to be difficult to beat East Kentwood at their place on a Friday night, but we're going to practice hard these next two days to get ready for it," said Olthof. "We feel pretty confident as a group right now, especially after beating them at home earlier this year."
"We know it's a big game Friday, so we'll have to play well in order to beat them at their place," said Kowalczyk-Fulmer. "As a coach, you always want your kids to be playing their best basketball at the end of the season, and I think tonight was a chance for us to gain some positive momentum heading into this tough stretch.
"Our kids know what's on the line and we have two days to prepare for a really good Kentwood team. We're excited about the challenge, but we'll have to play better than we did tonight if we expect to come out of there with the win.
"It would be pretty special to have an opportunity to win at least a share of the O-K Red Conference next week on our own floor."
Junior varsity: Grand Haven defeated Caledonia, 48-28. Zoe Spoelman led the Bucs with nine points, while Avery Keefe, Olivia Lovett and Molly Long each scored six.
Freshmen: Grand Haven defeated Caledonia, 41-21. Claire Stevens scored 11 points to lead the Bucs, while Mariah Hornak added seven and Skyler Covelli and Grace Montgomery each had five points.