EAST LANSING – Grand Haven wasn’t prepared for its trip to Michigan State’s Breslin Center last season. It’s as simple as that, Buccaneers’ senior guard Shar’Rae Davis said Friday.
Grand Haven defeated reigning Class A champion Inkster 43-40 to advance to its first MHSAA Final. And the game got that close only over the last minute, thanks to Inkster’s closing 10-2 run.
“We came in on cloud nine, just floating out there, happy to be there,” Davis said of last season’s run, which ended with a 39-38 Semifinal loss to Detroit Renaissance. “This year, we’re about to win. I’m not taking any other option. I’m so determined to win right now.”
Top-ranked Grand Haven (26-1) will face Grosse Pointe South (22-3) at noon Saturday.
How much difference did a year make for the Buccaneers?
The stat sheet doesn’t tell the story. Grand Haven shot only 33 percent from the floor Friday, was outrebounded and had more turnovers than Inkster.
- Senior guard Alex Law scored 16 points and made four 3-pointers. Grand Haven coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer noted a Regional Final two years ago at a smaller gym at Traverse City St. Francis where Law stepped out of bounds multiple times setting up for a long-range shot. A few of her makes Friday were no doubt from similar long distance.
- Junior center Abby Cole, measuring 6-foot-5, had five points, nine rebounds and 10 blocked shots facing a frontcourt filled with players measuring 6-0 or taller.
- Davis also scored 16 points, with six rebounds, and got in her teammates’ ears when Inkster started its late run.
“We learned (from last year) that we have potential. We’re good enough,” Cole said. “We’re even better this year. … We wanted it so much more.”
That the Buccaneers would move on remained in question only through the first quarter, and for maybe that final minute at the end. Grand Haven’s 15-3 run through the second quarter eventually led to a 10-point lead at halftime.
Inkster’s slow start was rooted mostly in its 18 percent shooting during that first half – a result, in large part, of Cole’s presence around the hoop. The Vikings made 4 of 8 shots from the floor during that closing stretch. But they ran out of time.
“First of all, Abby is 6-5 and she presents a presence in the lane, just to start with. I was very impressed with her timing. She was able to not, so to speak, try to block shots while the ball was in our shooters' hands. She was waiting until the ball was released,” Inkster coach Ollie Mitchell said. “Her play in volleyball (this fall) really, really helped her. That was pretty much the biggest concern of mine going into this game. … How we were we going to be able to disrupt her physically.
“For the most part, I think we struggled in that area. But as resilient as our team is, I just felt in the fourth quarter we were going to put a surge on.”
Inkster, ranked No. 10 entering the postseason, finished 21-6. Senior Kelsey Mitchell had nine points and 11 rebounds in her final game before joining the University of Michigan’s program. Senior guard Jamie Madden scored a team-high 13 points.
Grand Haven coaches were told just before tip-off about a vehicle accident that sent multiple students to the hospital as they were en route to the game Friday. Kowalczyk-Fulmer informed her players after the game ended.
“We are happy about the win, but shaken up about their condition,” she said.
PHOTO: Grand Haven junior Abby Cole launches a shot over Inkster defenders Friday. She had five points, nine rebounds and 10 blocks in the Semifinal. (Photo courtesy of Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)