G.R. Christian finding its groove, downs G.R. Catholic Central, 61-46
Grand Rapids - The high school girls basketball season still has three weeks left before the tournament but what Grand Rapids Christian has gone through is like they have played three seasons.
"We are a little different now (as a team)," Christian coach Tom Buteyn said. "We talked before the game about where we are as a team, and the first six games we only had nine players and we were getting better. We were on a little bit of a roll, we won the Cornerstone tournament, won three of four games, but then they we had some girls travel and we were down to six -- the gang of six as I called them, and we struggled.
"Those were tough times, we didn't have our transfers in yet and it was difficult. But now everyone is back, and we have been building and we talked about this game as a measuring stick."
This game was Tuesday night's non-conference tilt with visiting Grand Rapids Catholic Central, a team with one loss and a contender for the Class B title.
And the host Eagles wasted little time in taking control, racing out to a 14-point lead after the first quarter
From there Christian (10-6), winners of fiver straight, kept the Cougars at bay and won 61-46.
"We came out and played hard," Buteyn said. "Those first seven minutes were the best we have played all season."
Led by a solid team defense and the floor leadership of the three transfers that became eligible at the start of the second semester, Mariah McCully, Leah Singleton and Edecia Beck, Christian was up 20-6 after eight minutes.
That Eagles kept that 14-point lead at the half, 32-18. After the break Christian increased its lead to 48-26 heading into the final quarter.
McCully was the offensive leader scoring 11 of her game-high 24 points in the decisive third quarter.
Catholic Central coach Trevor Hinshaw was impressed with the full-strength Eagles.
"We think we can play better than we did tonight, but that is a really good team that we played," Hinshaw said. "We learned some things about ourselves, and we have to get better, especially on defense."
For Hinshaw, whose Cougars (14-2) suffered its other loss, a 20-point setback to OK Gold Division rival Grand Rapids South Christian on Jan. 29, he likes that his team has been humbled as the postseason nears.
"This has been a great couple of weeks," Hinshaw said. "This is exactly what we hoped when we scheduled this game. We needed this game to get ready for the tournament.
Junior post player Kyra Bussell led the Cougars in scoring (14 points) and rebounds (14).
Buteyn says his team is looking ahead now, and not back.
"We can't win the conference anymore because of some earlier losses, and that is disappointing," Buteyn said. "We have won or shared the conference title three years in a row, and it was disappointing. But now we need to get better, and this was a good measuring stick game for us, because obviously Catholic Central is the standard of great teams around the area."