By Andrew Johnson

GRAND HAVEN – When it comes to playing a postseason game on an opponent’s home floor, surviving the first four minutes is crucial.

On Wednesday night, the Mona Shores girls basketball team didn’t just survive, but dominated the opening minutes before cruising to a 50-34 victory over Grand Haven in the Division 1 district semifinals at Grand Haven High School.

Brooke LeRoux handles the ball with pressure from Grand Haven’s Taya Andrzejewski. Photo/Tonya Pardon

Mona Shores, now 13-3 on the season, advances to face Grand Rapids Union on Friday at 7 p.m. in the district championship game at Grand Haven.

The Sailors jumped out to a 13-0 lead and didn’t surrender a basket until the Buccaneers scored with just 2:21 left in the first quarter, and that set the tempo for the game.

“That’s kind of been our motto all year,” said Mona Shores head coach Mike Phillips about the start his team had. “If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down fighting. That was kind of the message coming in, and you could see that off the bat. We played loose and shots went down, so it helped.”

During the opening 13-0 run, junior guard Olivia Sobczak hit two three-pointers to jump-start the offense.

“I was excited,” Sobczak said. “I think that when we’re all making our shots, we just build on it and we were knocking down everything. Seeing everyone’s shot go in is exciting.”

Jenna Tierman knocks the ball away from Grand Haven’s Avery Keefe. Photo/Tonya Pardon

Mona Shores led 15-4 after the first quarter with Sobczak totaling six points and Bri Wade scoring four.

The Sailors’ strong defensive effort continued in the second quarter, and they increased their lead to 26-9 at halftime. 

Mona Shores held Grand Haven to 4 of 9 shooting from the field in the first half, while also forcing four turnovers.

“We stuck to the game plan really well,” said Phillips about the first half defense. “I thought our guards did a great job of putting perimeter pressure on, and our posts did a great job of limiting post touches.”

The teams were competitive in the third quarter, with Grand Haven outscoring the Sailors 11-10 and trimming its deficit to 36-20 heading into the fourth.

Each team scored 14 points down the stretch as the Sailors secured a spot in the district championship game.

LeRoux led Mona Shores with 12 points on the night while Sobczak added 11.

Grand Haven was paced by Zoe Spoelman with 11 points and Molly Long with nine. Grand Haven finished the season with a 4-12 record.

Bri Wade grabs a rebound for Mona Shores in front of Grand Haven’s No. 4 Emily Walcott. Photo/Tonya Pardon

While the Sailors were happy with the victory, they are not going to celebrate too much too soon, because they anticipate a tough matchup against Grand Rapids Union in the finals.

 “Union is a very athletic team,” said Phillips, whose team beat Union 62-50 and 56-45 earlier this season. “They play fast, and they push the ball. They put a lot of pressure on the perimeter and we’ll have to be disciplined.”

Sobczak is excited that she and her teammates get an opportunity to win another championship after clinching the O-K Green conference title last weekend.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “We’ve all put so much time and effort into this. Now we’re just getting that chance to show everyone what we can do.”