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East Kentwood pulls away from Grand Haven girls late

Josh VanDyke • Feb 23, 2019 at 12:30 AM

KENTWOOD — The Grand Haven girls basketball team knew Friday night's matchup against East Kentwood wasn't going to be easy.

The Falcons were celebrating Senior Night on their home court, with a share of the O-K Red Conference title on the line. The Buccaneers had plenty to play for as well, as wins over East Kentwood on Friday and Rockford on Tuesday would give the squad the conference title outright.

East Kentwood proved to be too much for Grand Haven to handle in their highly anticipated rematch, as the Falcons used a 22-10 run in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Buccaneers for a 58-42 win and clinch a share of the league title.

"Basketball is a game of runs, and they started and ended the game on two big runs," said Grand Haven head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer. "We battled back both times, but then they had Alona Blackwell knock down back-to-back 3-pointers and (Madisyn) Tillman had three straight buckets in the paint, and the next thing you know, we're down 10.

"At that point, we were tired from the effort we put in to climb back into the game and we were going up against a team that doesn't turn the ball over much, too. I think offensively, we settled for some bad shots late in the game because we were a little tired and that kind of kickstarted their transition a few times."

Grand Haven started the game slowly, as East Kentwood took advantage of some Buccaneer turnovers and missed shots at the rim to jump out to a 9-1 lead midway through the opening quarter. However, Grand Haven showed some resolve, as they clawed back to only trail 11-5 as the first buzzer sounded.

The Buccaneers carried that late momentum into the second quarter, as they took a 22-21 lead at halftime. East Kentwood would put together a few stronger possessions than Grand Haven in the third quarter on their way to a 36-32 advantage entering the fourth quarter of play.

In the final quarter, East Kentwood's standout performers got the best of the Bucs, as senior Alona Blackwell and sophomore center Madisyn Tillman turned in game-changing plays down the stretch to keep Grand Haven at bay.

Tillman finished with a game-high 20 points, while Blackwell added 18 points and Mauriya Barnes added 11 points.

Alli Keyser led Grand Haven with 19 points, three steals and four rebounds, while Esther Byington added eight points, eight rebounds and four blocks, and Jolee Houle had seven points and four assists.

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Grand Haven (15-3, 8-3) hosts Rockford on Tuesday, followed by their regular-season finale at home against Ludington.

"I told the kids after the game that I was sorry that we weren't able to get it done," said Kowalczyk-Fulmer. "This obviously isn't the result that we wanted, but this doesn't define our season. It would have been nice to win an O-K Red Championship, and I really wanted that for our seniors, but now we have to focus on getting a district title.

"We'll bounce back. Nothing is broken. This one hurts, but we still have plenty of time to build some momentum heading into districts and make this a special season by the time it's over."

Junior varsity: East Kentwood defeated Grand Haven, 59-55 in overtime. Molly Long led the Buccaneers with 15 points and 20 rebounds.

Freshmen: Grand Haven defeated East Kentwood, 49-35. Mariah Hornak scored 14 points to lead the Bucs, while Veda Vargas contributed 10 points and Claire Stevens added eight points.

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