By Steve Gunn
Local Sports Journal
MUSKEGON – It’s been a long time since anybody’s beaten Grand Haven in girls basketball.
Fifty-seven games and more than two years, to be exact.
So there was more than a little pressure on Mona Shores’ Walker sisters in the final seconds of Friday’s game.
Both had been to the free throw line seconds earlier and missed the front end of one and one’s.
Another miss might have opened the door for the Bucs to squeak out yet another win.
But freshman Jordan Walker calmly sank two free throws with 11 seconds remaining, then senior Jasmyn Walker nailed two more with two seconds left to give Mona Shores a thrilling 45-41 victory over the defending Class A state champions in non-league action.
The victory was huge for Mona Shores (5-1), which lost both of its games against Grand Haven last season by large margins, and knew they had to find a way to beat the Bucs if they hoped to live up to their potential this season.
“That freshman hitting those two big free throws to put us up – and then the senior leader coming out and hitting those free throws at the end – I’m proud of every one of those kids,” said Mona Shores Coach Brad Kerth. “They played their guts out and they wanted it.
“We’ve lost to Grand Haven for a long time. I can’t imagine how many teams have a long losing streak against Grand Haven and we’re one of them, so there’s no question this one means a lot.”
Jasmyn Walker played a huge role in the victory. The senior guard, who was honorable mention All-State last season, got the Sailors off to a strong start with a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter and one triple in the second.
Walker’s hot hand, along with Grand Haven’s 3-for-11 shooting in the second quarter, allowed Mona Shores to grab a 23-18 halftime lead.
But great teams like Grand Haven don’t go down easy. Amanda Merz scores seven of her 16 points in the third quarter, while Taylor Craymer added five, including a triple, to help the Bucs tie the score at 31-31 at the buzzer.
But Mona Shores made the big baskets down the stretch while Grand Haven went cold.
The Sailors opened the fourth quarter with a 7-3 run, keyed by triples from Amy Kober and Jasmyn Walker, to go on top 39-34 with 4:50 remaining.
Jasmymn Walker’s driving layup with 2:45 left put the Sailors up 41-36, then Merz did the same with 33 seconds left to close the score to 41-39.
Jordan Walker hit her free throws with 11 seconds left to put Shores up 43-39, then Merz sank a pair five seconds later to make the score 43-41.
Jasmyn Walker’s two free throws with two seconds left sealed the victory for Mona Shores. She finished with 16 points, including four triples, along with eight rebounds and five assists.
Jordan Walker had eight points, eight rebounds and four assists while Kelsey Wolffis added four steals.
Grand Haven was only 3-for-9 from the floor in the final quarter and 17 of 45 on the night. The Bucs were also hurt by 15 turnovers.
Kerth credited his team’s tough defense for making numerous stops at key moments throughout the contest.
“We had a game plan and we made every defensive stop when we needed it,” Kerth said. “We have a scheme. We get teams to do what we want them to do instead of what they want to do.
“This affirms what we are. We can battle for four quarters and can grind out a game defensively when we want to.”
Grand Haven Coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said the long winning streak was probably more important to the school and community than it was to her team.
The Bucs had not lost since Dec. 16, 2011.
“It’s okay,” she said. “We just talked about it. I think it was more important to the community than to us. We never talk about it.
“You can always take positives from a loss. We’re just going to go with it. Mona’s a good team and we didn’t play well enough to win.
“It’s a basketball game. The sun will come up tomorrow.”
Merz finished with 16 points and seven steals while Craymer added 10 points and eight rebounds for Grand Haven (6-1).