1,000-Point Pair Pacing Another John Glenn Contender

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 3, 2021

Abi Tarrant knew how close Carly McCrum was to 1,000 career points and wanted to make sure her Bay City John Glenn teammate’s accomplishment was celebrated. 

On Feb. 17, when McCrum achieved the milestone in a victory against Alma, the John Glenn fans in attendance cheered the moment while waving homemade signs, which they had been carrying thanks in large part to an effort spearheaded by Tarrant.

“Last year, I broke the (school career) rebound record, and all of the student section, everybody made posters, and it was a huge moment for me,” Tarrant said. “I knew she was getting her 1,000 points that week, so I wanted her to have the same type of environment. Even though the student section wasn’t there, she could still have that kind of energy from the crowd when she hit it.”

It was only after the celebration for McCrum subsided that Tarrant realized just how close she was to the same milestone: 16 points.

“I knew exactly where she was because I had been planning the poster thing,” Tarrant said. “(One thousand points) kind of snuck up on me. I didn’t know I was that close to her. But in the game it happened, I knew.”

Tarrant achieved her own milestone the next time out, a John Glenn victory on Feb. 19 against Birch Run, giving the Bobcats a pair of 1,000-point scorers in the same class.

McCrum now sits at 1,053 career points and Tarrant has 1,046 as they have led the Bobcats to a 7-1 start to the season and a top-five ranking in The Associated Press Division 2 poll. Their lone loss came in double overtime against Frankenmuth, another top-five team.

Bay City John Glenn girls basketball 2“I just thought it was a really cool experience,” McCrum said. “We’ve both been on varsity since our freshmen year, and we’ve played with each other on the same travel team, so it was very cool that we hit it in the same week. We both feel like this team is really special, and our goal is to win a state championship.”

Tarrant and McCrum became the seventh and eighth players in school history to hit the 1,000-point mark. It’s the second time John Glenn has had classmates reach the milestone, joining 2016 graduates Jenai LaPorte (1,547 points) and Cassidy Boensch (1,403). Boensch did play her first two seasons at Au Gres-Sims. 

“I’ve been really spoiled,” John Glenn coach Cory Snider said. “Three of those 1,000-point scorers (LaPorte, Boensch and 2017 graduate Kalle Martinez) were all on the same team. The five kids I’ve had (reach 1,000 points) have all been on the same teams, so that’s a really unique situation. You don’t hear of that a whole lot. They make me look way smarter than I am.”

McCrum and Tarrant are both four-year varsity players for Snider, and for McCrum, it was clear early on that she would become another of the school’s great scorers. She was the team’s leading scorer during her freshman (14 points per game) and sophomore (14.2) seasons.

“Carly has been the steady, calm influence on our team for four years,” Snider said. “It’s pretty incredible to be able to come in as a freshman and give us (14.2) points per game when she was (the focus) on everybody’s scouting report her freshman year.”

McCrum said it was a role she was comfortable with, as she had taken it on through middle school as a travel player.

“It wasn’t something really new for me,” said McCrum, a 5-foot-10 guard who has signed with Ferris State. “Probably my freshman year, I did feel some pressure and it got in my head, but it’s gotten a lot better, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with that.”

While she’s thrived in that role, and has established herself as a strong outside shooter, McCrum would rather be the one setting up teammates.

“She has such a high basketball IQ,” Snider said. “She’s more of a true playmaker than a natural scorer. She has a super high basketball IQ and loves to find the open player. She enjoys making an assist as much as she enjoys scoring a basket.”

Bay City John Glenn girls basketball 3While McCrum was filling up the scoresheet early on, Tarrant had to find a different way to make an impact for the Bobcats. Despite her size – she's 5-7 now – that wound up being rebounding.

“Freshman year, I was just kind of in the right place at the right time, and I think that’s a lot of it,” said Tarrant, who is committed to Hope College. “A lot of those are rebounds that the posts don’t want to get, like running out of bounds. I would sneak up behind people to get them – I just always find myself somewhere near it. My dad told me that if you’re not going to score, then you have to do something. I guess I just picked that.”

Tarrant has done that better than anyone in school history, racking up 732 career rebounds. 

“She just played with such a high motor, and she had such a desire to be really good,” Snider said. “Her growth as a player has been incredible from her freshman year to now as a senior. It’s more growth than I’ve seen from any other player. It’s unbelievable.”

Tarrant’s scoring picked up in a big way a year ago, as she averaged 19.4 points per game, setting a junior-year record for points at John Glenn. 

“I think we molded more as a team,” Tarrant said. “We started playing a lot better together. At first, I think it was hard. Freshman year, Carly was the best player through and through, then sophomore year I stepped up my game a little bit. Junior year, we figured out how our games complement each other. This year, we’re playing amazing together.”

With a strong supporting cast surrounding them, McCrum and Tarrant hope to take John Glenn back to the heights it reached not long ago. The Bobcats were a Class B semifinalist in 2016 but have had their season ended by Freeland every year since, including in the District Final the past three seasons.

But they feel this could be the year they add some team trophies to the individual successes they’ve been able to rack up.

“It would mean a lot,” McCrum said. “Abi and I have been on the same team since freshman year. Some of the girls, we have been together since sophomore year. We’ve all been together for a long time. First of all, we want to win Districts. We’ve lost three years in a row to Freeland. I think it would be so awesome. We’ve all been together for so long, and we’ve always talked about going so far.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at paulcostanzo3@gmail.com with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Bay City John Glenn’s Abi Tarrant, left, and Carly McCrum make strong moves to the hoop against Alma this season. (Middle) Tarrant focuses for a free throw. (Below) McCrum maintains possession against Freeland. (Photos by Jodi Stopyak.)

Decade After Title Trips, 'Coach K' Just as Driven to Coach Up Grand Haven Contenders

By Tom Kendra
Special for MHSAA.com

February 1, 2023

Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer has experienced unforgettable highs and nightmarish lows during her 25 years as the girls basketball coach at Grand Haven.

It’s now the 10-year anniversary of an amazing three-year stretch from 2011 to 2013, when “Coach K” guided the Buccaneers to a combined 81-2 record, three consecutive berths in the Class A Semifinals and back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

The lows are harder to pick out, but the way Grand Haven lost at Hudsonville on Jan. 24 certainly qualifies.

The Bucs led 46-44 with time running out, when Haven was called for a shooting foul with one-tenth of a second remaining on a desperation half-court shot attempt. Hudsonville senior Maddie Peroelje then made all three free throws to pull out an improbable 47-46 win.

“That one was brutal,” said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, who was feeling much better Tuesday, one week later, after Haven downed visiting Zeeland West 44-33 for its third-straight victory.

“I love all of it, the great teams and big wins, but also the struggles and trying to stay strong and figure things out.”

Kowalczyk-Fulmer, 52, might be in the midst of the best coaching job in her 31-year career, guiding a team with no returning starters to a 10-4 start, including an impressive 5-2 record after the first rotation in the rugged Ottawa-Kent Conference Red.

She is doing it with a team that only goes about six or seven deep, has no one in that group taller than 6-foot and lost its starting point guard, junior Abbey Klumpel, to a season-ending knee injury during the summer.

How is she doing it?

“She teaches a team game of basketball,” explained ninth-year Grand Haven athletic director Scott Robertson, who has been involved in high school sports for 32 years. “She is more invested in her sport, her kids, her program than anyone I have ever seen.”

The defensive leader Tuesday was gritty senior guard Grace Harrison, who held Zeeland West’s top perimeter threat scoreless.

On offense, junior forward Emerson Berndt turned in a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds. She scored 14 of those points in the second half to help the Bucs put the game away.

Berndt had the hot hand Tuesday, but in other games this season sophomore guard Gillian Sorrelle or junior forward Maddie Schopf have carried the team from outside. The inside leader is 5-11 senior center Heidi Berkey, who held her own against ZW’s 6-4 senior center Kara Bartels.

Berndt, who leads the Bucs with 12 points and five rebounds per game, said this team has a special bond with its head coach.

“Coach has established such a close relationship with all of us, and she knows how to get us going,” said Berndt, who is one of the five Haven starters who all average at least six points per game. “She’s always joking around, but getting after it at the same time.”

Kowalczyk-Fulmer and son Drew accept the Class A championship trophy after the Bucs’ second-straight title win in 2013. Haven, which is a surprising second in the O-K Red at the halfway point, starts the second half of the slate Friday at first-place and No. 3-ranked Rockford (13-1).

Kowalczyk-Fulmer, a standout player at Caledonia and then Hope College, began her coaching career at the age of 21 when she was still a senior at Hope – coaching the seventh-grade girls team at Caledonia.

She then worked five years at Hastings, including the final three as girls varsity head coach, before taking the job as a physical education teacher and varsity girls basketball coach at Grand Haven in 1997.

Kowalczyk-Fulmer and her husband, Paul, have one son, Drew, a 12-year-old sixth grader at Grand Haven who was just a toddler when the Buccaneers were enjoying their magical three-year run a decade ago.

Haven made its presence known on a statewide level in 2011, when 6-5 sophomore Abby Cole led the Bucs to a 26-1 record, with the only loss coming by a single point to Detroit Renaissance, 39-38, in a Class A Semifinal at Michigan State’s Breslin Center.

The Bucs took the final step in 2012, erasing an 18-point, third-quarter deficit as senior guard Shar’Rae Davis drove the length of the court for the game-winning layup with nine seconds remaining in a 54-53 victory over Grosse Pointe South. Haven finished 27-1, with its only loss coming early in the season against O-K Red rival East Kentwood.

GH did it again in 2013 with a perfect 28-0 record, which might have been the most impressive because the only returning starter was Cole, who would go on to an all-Big Ten volleyball career at Michigan. The Bucs committed a staggering 32 turnovers, but made up for it with 22-of-29 shooting (76 percent), in a 60-54 overtime victory over, once again, Grosse Pointe South.

“Those are the glory days, and here we are 10 years later and you realize just how special it was,” said Kowalczyk-Fulmer, who has also coached track at Grand Haven. “We always stayed humble and worked hard.

“Obviously, having someone like Abby Cole as the last line of defense is something special. But she had such great character and leadership, as well. I can still see her out there when things weren’t going well, and she would wrap her long arms around her teammates and tell them it was going to be OK. And it was.”

Kowalczyk-Fulmer has amassed 391 victories as a head coach, with six O-K Red titles, eight District and four Regional championships – along with the two Class A Finals wins.

“Those trophies are getting hard to come by – I’m thinking about buying one on eBay,” said Coach K, displaying the quick wit that her fellow coaches, referees and players know very well.

She works hard, but also has plenty of fun and laughs along the way, which is why she doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon – even though this school year marks her 30th year of teaching.

As Kowalczyk-Fulmer was finishing up her media obligations after the Zeeland West victory, her son – a sports junkie who has literally grown up in the Grand Haven bleachers and locker rooms – sat waiting in the hallway.

“I plan to be here until he graduates,” she said with a nod to her only child. “I love it. It’s my passion, and I’m really lucky. Grand Haven is such a great place to live and coach.

“I’m not ready to stop.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at kendra.tom@gmail.com with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Grand Haven girls basketball coach Katie Kowalczyk-Fulmer talks things over with her team during a game earlier this decade. (Middle) Kowalczyk-Fulmer and son Drew accept the Class A championship trophy after the Bucs’ second-straight title win in 2013. (Top photo courtesy of the Local Sports Journal.)