By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

GRAND HAVEN – Grand Haven’s effective 2-3 zone defense set the tone on Thursday night in the Bucs’ 43-31 victory over Traverse City West.

The Bucs forced the Titans into plenty of long range shots throughout the game, but particularly in the early going when the hosts built a 16-4 lead. Junior guard Amanda Merz scored eight of her 10 points in the opening quarter.

“I’m real happy with the first game,” Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “Defensively, we were working on a zone. We haven’t played a zone in 2 or 3 years. If you’re going to play it, you have work at it to work the kinks out so we just chose to stay in it all night.”

Getting out to that big lead early was just what the Bucs needed.

“It was really important because it gave our younger players on the team some confidence,” Merz said. “We got off to that great start then we said, ‘we’re fine.'”

By halftime, the Bucs extended their lead to 27-14 as more players got involved in the scoring.

When the third quarter began, Grand Haven showed it would not be pushed in its season-opening victory. Three-pointers in quick succession by Taylor Craymer and Mallory Beswick pushed the lead to 33-14.

Kowalczyk-Fulmer was able to get plenty of players some minutes in Thursday’s game since Traverse City Central is coming to town on Friday night.

Craymer led the Bucs, winners of 52 straight games dating back nearly two years, with 12 points, five rebounds and three steals. Merz had 10 points and four rebounds. Sophomore Hanna Rinkevicz had four points and a team-high six rebounds.

TC West was paced by Kiley Kreple with 18 points, including several long 3-pointers.