By Mark Lewis
Local Sports Journal
GRAND HAVEN – Coming off last season’s Class A state title, the Grand Haven girls basketball squad has some pretty high expectations for this year.
And after Friday night’s blowout of rival Mona Shores, those expectations are only going to grow.
The host Bucs held off a third-quarter Sailor charge, en route to the convincing 62-36 win in non-league hoops action.
Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said this year’s Bucs are different than last year’s team.
“We’re just such a different team this year,” she said. “We graduated four starters (so) this team has its own identity. I think we’re fun to watch. We’re certainly not where we need to be, but we did some good things tonight. There were times when we just didn’t get it done defensively.”
That moment came in the third quarter. Up 11 at the break, Grand Haven was coasting until the Sailors reeled off a 7-2 run, cutting the lead to eight with momentum clearly favoring Mona Shores.
But just like that, due to a 12-1 run to close the third, the Bucs were suddenly up again by 19.
“We’re just bringing everything we have,” said Sailor head coach Brad Kurth. “But the gas tank went empty. We just couldn’t sustain it, and Grand Haven’s depth really matters.”
In fact, the Sailors suffered a loss just three minutes into the game, when starting guard Morgan Smith collided with Grand Haven 6-foot-5 center Abby Cole on a fast break. While Cole quickly found her feet again, Smith remained on the floor for several minutes before she was able to again stand under her own power. Smith did not return.
“When you take an all-conference guard out of the game, it hurts our depth a little bit,” said Kurth. “Everybody has injuries and stuff, but it is tough, really tough. I thought Amy Gillings did a fantastic job for us off the bench.”
Kowalczyk-Fulmer admitted Smith’s absence played a part in her club’s win.
“Obviously, they played a good part of the game without one of their top players.”
Grand Haven, on 7-for-15 shooting, ran out to the 15-8 first-quarter lead. Without Smith, the Sailor offense became unglued, finishing the half with 6-for-27 shooting and with the Bucs leading 26-15 at the break.
With the big lead, the Bucs emptied the bench on their way to the victory.
“We don’t always want to get into a full-court track meet,” said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, explaining why her team took so long to take control of the contest. “We like to get into a half-court game, especially going against a team that doesn’t have a lot of size. We did a good job of getting the ball inside to Abby, which was our focus.”
Cole finished with a game-high 19 points to go with nine rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
Six-foot-one Grand Haven junior Taylor Craymer led everyone with 11 boards, while teammates Mallory Beswick and Amanda Merz both finished with four steals. Senior Buc guard Hannah Wilkerson added nine points in the victory.
Jasmyn Walker led Mona Shores with 11 points, nine rebounds and four steals, with Amy Gillings and Meredith Smith added eight points apiece.
Grand Haven 62, Mona Shores 36
Courtney Springer 1 0-2 2, Amanda Merz 2 0-0 4, Grace Kendra 2 0-0 6, Angie Schultz 2 2-2 7, Jami Hogeboom 0 0-2 0, Mallory Beswick 2 0-0 4, Hannah Wilkerson 4 0-0 9, Bailey Tebeau 1 0-0 2, Abby Cole 7 5-6 19, Krysteena Davis 1 3-4 5, Taylor Craymer 2 0-0 4. Totals 24 10-16 62.
Amy Gillings 4 0-0 8, Meredith Smith 3 2-2 8, Corrine DeWitt 1 0-0 2, Jasmyn Walker 4 3-6 11, Saddie Vela 1 2-6 4, Sarah Jones 1 1-2 3. Totals 15 6-13 36.
Grand Haven 15-11-20-16-62
Mona Shores 8-7-12-9-36
Three-point field goals: Kendra (2), Schultz, Wilkerson. Total fouls: Grand Haven 15, Mona Shores 14. Fouled out: none. Technical fouls: none.