Anna Strom led the way with a career-high 21 points, besting her previous season high of nine, while pulling down four rebounds and nabbing two steals.
The Bucs jumped out to a 7-0 run to start the game and held on for an 11-9 lead after the first quarter. The Rams rallied for a 22-20 halftime lead before outscoring Grand Haven 13-9 in the third for a 35-29 lead heading into the fourth.
The final period went back and forth with Rockford holding their six-point lead as time wound down. Strom reversed the trend with nine points in the quarter, including the go-ahead bucket with 20 seconds left on the clock.
Tied 46-46, head coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer planned on holding the ball and calling a timeout to draw up a play for Grand Haven’s leading all-time scorer Alli Keyser. Instead, Keyser found Strom ready in the wing, who nailed the shot to take a narrow 48-46 lead.
Rockford took the ensuing possession down the court and drew a trip to the free-throw line. The shooter missed the first shot and elected to intentionally miss the second for a chance at a rebound and the tying bucket. The Bucs ruined the plan by pulling down the rebound. Rockford fouled to try and extend the game, sending Jolee Houle to the line to seal the win.
“Anna Strom had the game of her life,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “She is always one we try to get to shoot more, and tonight she did. Rockford ran a triangle and two, face guarding Jolee and Alli, so we needed her to shoot and she shot awesome.
“We have five starters who can score. We always want her to shoot more. She rebounds really well for us always, but we couldn’t have done it without her scoring tonight.”
The senior shooter finished 9-of-14 from the floor, only missing one from two-point range while going 3-for-7 from behind the arc.
Alli Keyser followed Strom with 12 points and six assists, including a 6-for-8 free throw performance in the fourth quarter. Kelly Olthof scored nine points and grabbed six rebounds, while Esther Byington led the team with nine rebounds and four blocks.
“Alli did a really nice job of getting to the line in the fourth,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “It was hard for her to get shots with the defense hanging all over her. Kelly had a nice night and was solid, as always.”
The game was a chance to play spoiler for the Bucs, as a Rockford victory would have earned the Rams a share of the O-K Red Conference title with East Kentwood. After tough losses to both teams, the Bucs were more than happy to finish their conference season on a high note.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “We have had some tough losses. Double OT to Rockford, West Ottawa hit a late three on us, it was nice to come out of a close game with a win.
“We haven’t lost at home this year. It is nice to protect the home court and especially build some momentum going into districts. This was a big game for us to do both those things.”
The win raises the Bucs’ record to 16-3 overall and 9-3 in conference play. They are scheduled to conclude their regular season at home against Ludington on Thursday at 7 p.m., before facing Muskegon in the opening round of the district tournament Monday.
Junior varsity: Rockford defeated Grand Haven, 52-42. Alyssa Hatzel scored 13 points to lead the Bucs, while Zoe Spoelman added nine and Caydee Constant had eight. The Bucs finish the season with an 11-6 record overall.
Freshmen: Grand Haven defeated Rockford, 28-21. Sammi Campbell and Veda Vargas each scored seven points to lead the Bucs, while Claire Stevens contributed five points.