One could argue that Grand Ledge might have had the better team on Tuesday night.
But there’s no argument who had the best player.
Grand Haven’s 6-foot-5 senior center Abby Cole had 18 points, 10 rebounds and 15 blocked shots to lead the defending state champions to a 43-35 Class A quarterfinal victory over Grand Ledge at Lansing Eastern’s Don Johnson Fieldhouse. No. 3-ranked Grand Haven (26-0) advances to face Westland John Glenn (24-1) in the 1 p.m. semifinal on Friday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.
“She’s a game-changer,” Grand Ledge coach David Jones said of Cole. “That’s what great players do with that kind of experience.”
Cole set the tone by blocking three shots on the Comets’ first offensive possession.
“She has a way of altering shots near the basket,” Jones said. “We had trouble scoring when we wanted to, and we’re used to being able to get to the basket.”
Cole scored four straight field goals in the second quarter to change a 12-9 deficit into a 17-14 lead.
But Grand Ledge, which led 7-6 after one quarter, trailed just 17-16 at halftime.
“They made it really tough on us, and they outplayed us, I thought, in the first half,” Bucs coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer said. “We were turning the ball over. Our Hannah Wilkerson did a good job on No. 3 (Hannah Orwat), but No. 20 (Lindsay Orwat) went off for 20 (points).”
Lindsay Orwat hit two 3-pointers to put the Comets ahead 6-2, and her fourth 3-pointer tied the game at 34-34 with five minutes remaining.
Cole then hit the go-ahead field goal, blocked a shot and threw a long pass ahead to Wilkerson for a layup to put Grand Haven ahead for good at 38-34 with four minutes left.
The Bucs sank 5 of 8 free throws to complete their scoring, while the Comets madejust 1 of 5 in that stretch.
Grand Ledge, whose fine free throw shooting was key in district wins over Waverly and East Lansing, finished just 8 of 17 against Grand Haven.
But Cole was impressed with the Comets’ 6-3 sophomore Cori Crocker, who finished with nine points, and 6-1 junior Codie Drake.
“They are probably the best posts I’ve played against all season,” she said.
Kowalczyk-Fulmer felt fortunate to defeat Class A honorable mention Grand Ledge, which finishes the season with a 21-5 record.
“I’m impressed, and they return all their starters,” she said. “They have all the pieces. They should probably be ranked very high next year in the state.”
CLASS A QUARTER: GRAND HAVEN 43, GRAND LEDGE 35
Lauren Bachert 0 0-0 0, Beth Boman 0 0-2 0, Cori Crocker 3 3-6 9, Codie Drake 0 2-2 2, Sophie Guzman 0 0-0 0, Tess Huelskamp 0 0-0 0, Hannah Orwat 1 1-2 4, Lindsay Orwat 7 2-5 20. Totals 11 8-17 35
Mallory Beswick 2 1-2 6, Abby Cole 9 0-1 18, Taylor Craymer 3 2-3 9, Amanda Merz 0 2-2 2, Angela Schultz 0 0-0 0, Hannah Wilkerson 3 2-3 8. Totals 17 7-11 43
3-point goals-Grand Ledge 5 (Hannah Orwat 1, Lindsay Orwat 4), Grand Haven 2 (Mallory Beswick 1, Taylor Craymer 1), Total fouls-Grand Ledge 15, Grand Haven 12