It wasn’t simply a result of home-court advantage that the Grand Ledge girls basketball team edged East Lansing 51-49 in its district final a week and a half ago.
And it’s no fluke the Class A honorable mention Comets (21-4) topped regional foes last week and will play in the same spot the Trojans have the past six years – in tonight’s 7 p.m. quarterfinal at Lansing Eastern’s Don Johnson Fieldhouse. Grand Ledge’s opponent tonight – which was also East Lansing’s foe at least half of those six years – is Grand Haven, which is the defending state champion and ranked No. 3 in the last Associated Press poll.
“I am confident that at least four players will almost certainly receive scholarship offers from (NCAA) Division I schools,” said former Waverly girls coach Erik Kutas, who coaches some of the Comets during the summer on his AAU Patriots team.
The four are 6-foot-3 sophomore center Cori Crocker, 5-8 junior guards Lindsay and Hannah Orwat, and 6-1 forward Codie Drake. Crocker has even drawn interest from Big Ten teams such as Michigan State and Michigan.
“Sophie Guzman, as she develops, is also on course to receive a scholarship, Division I or II, although the next two summers will have big impact on that,” Kutas said of the 5-5 sophomore guard who sustained a slight neck injury in Tuesday’s 52-32 regional semifinal win over Wyoming at Holt and sat out Thursday’s 47-37 regional final victory over Mattawan.
In the Mattawan game, Grand Ledge had to deal with 6-5 Allie Havers, who is headed to Nebraska.
Tonight, they face 6-5 Miss Basketball candidate Abby Cole, who is headed to U-M on a volleyball scholarship and scored 18 points in Grand Haven’s 54-53 state final victory over Grosse Pointe South a year ago.
“I think that this girl (Havers) prepared me for her, although I’m pretty sure she’ll be a lot tougher and a lot stronger,” Crocker said of Coles. “I’m looking forward to that as a bigger challenge to see how I match up.”
Grand Ledge coach David Jones plans different looks in trying to defend Cole, who averages about 14 points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots per game.
“I like to think we have three or four girls that we can throw out there confidently,” he said, referring to Crocker, Drake, 6-1 senior Tess Heuelskamp and 6-0 senior Beth Boman.
Hannah Wilkerson, the team’s second-leading scorer at about 10 points per game, is the only other player who has scored for the Bucs this season who appeared in last year’s state championship game.
Taylor Craymer adds about nine points per game and Amanda Merz another five per game for Grand Haven, which has won 48 games in a row dating back to a 2011 state semifinal loss that followed a 59-50 quarterfinal win over East Lansing.
The Bucs edged East Lansing 42-40 in double overtime in this quarterfinal a year ago en route to the state title.