Class A: Grand Haven stands tall

March 16, 2012

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.

This time?

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.

Instead, consider:

  • 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.

Click for the box score. Watch the game and both teams' postgame press conferences at 

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.)

Few in Number, Tecumseh Pursuing Sizable Success with Zajacs Setting Pace

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

December 5, 2023

TECUMSEH – First, the good news: Nearly everyone on the Tecumseh girls basketball team has aspirations to play college basketball – and several of them at a very high level. 

Southeast & BorderNow, the twist: There are only eight girls in the entire program. 

Tecumseh head coach Kristy Zajac, starting her seventh season, is unfazed by the lack of numbers. Tecumseh will field just a varsity team this season but should contend for a Southeastern Conference White championship and pursue a deep playoff run as well. 

“This is a great group of girls,” Zajac said. “At least six or seven of them want to play college basketball. The basketball IQ is so much higher than we have had in the past. We’ve never had a full team of basketball-first kids.” 

Zajac said that dynamic has changed practices and the approach on the court. 

“We do a lot more high-level skill stuff and high-level thinking,” she said. “We do more read-and-react stuff where they have to play on the fly, which makes us harder to scout. We want to try and give the kids a chance to use that basketball IQ and make opportunities for themselves on the floor so they can score without having to run a set play.” 

The list of college prospects starts with her daughter, 6-foot-2 junior Alli Zajac. She holds about 15 Division I offers, and the list seems to grow daily.  

She’s been receiving recruiting attention since before she played a game in high school. As a freshman, she was the Lenawee County Player of the Year and has been all-state both of her first two seasons. Last winter, she scored 433 points as Tecumseh went 20-5.  

Her sister, Addi Zajac, hasn’t played a varsity game yet but has received a lot of attention as well as a college prospect after several great years of travel ball. She’s 6-foot and a true center. 

“She wears a size 14 shoe,” Zajac said. “We are hoping next year she is 6-3 or 6-4. She has such a strong body; I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anyone that strong at her age. She can push people around.” 

The sisters are very different types of players. They also are extremely competitive, as witnessed when they play 1-on-1 at home. 

“It usually ends in a fistfight,” Zajac said. “They are both very competitive.” 

Kristy Zajac coaches her team, which finished 20-5 in 2022-23. The team is loaded with more talent than just the Zajac sisters. 

Sophomore Makayla Schlorf made 28 3-pointers last season, and sophomore Chloe Bollinger made 26. Junior Ashlyn Moorhead averaged just under double figures in scoring and averaged 3.7 assists a game last year. Junior Lauren Kilbarger also is back from last season and joined by newcomers Faith Wiedyk, a junior, sophomore Sophia Torres and freshman Amaria Brown.  

Maddie VanBlack is another travel ball veteran but is out this season due to tearing an ACL. 

Tecumseh athletic director Jon Zajac – Kristy’s husband – said it is disappointing Tecumseh won’t field a junior varsity team this year. He said kids playing travel ball in other sports, along with the youth of the current team, are factors. 

“It is frustrating,” he said. “Hopefully this is the only year for that.” 

Kristy (Maska) Zajac grew up near Tecumseh in Britton, played four years on the varsity and scored more than 1,800 career points under coach Bart Bartels, now an assistant on her staff. She played at Eastern Michigan University, where she was one of the top scorers in school history. Jon Zajac, played at EMU and professionally overseas.  

The entire family is crazy about basketball. In addition to Alli and Addi, son Ryder played four years at Tecumseh before heading off to college to play football, and the youngest in the family, Avery, is a budding star in her own right. 

“There were a few travel games this year where my team was short on numbers and Avery got to play with Addi and Alli,” Kristy Zajac said. “That was cool to see. She held her own. She won’t get to play with Alli in high school (Avery is in seventh grade), but she’ll get two years with Addi. I got to play with my sister, and I wouldn’t trade that time for anything.” 

Jon Zajac stops by practice now and then to coach as well. He and Kristy coach Avery’s travel team. 

“He is a great person to have as part of the program,” Kristy Zajac said of her husband. “Anytime I can get him to help with the post players and with the girls is great. He’s a huge help.” 

The family often schedules trips around basketball and is seemingly always pulled in multiple directions as the three girls compete at various levels. 

“It’s pretty much basketball all day, every day,” Zajac said. “It’s fun to see how the kids enjoy it and love the game.” 

Tecumseh, which has won a combined 39 games over the past two seasons, has loaded up its schedule, playing a collection of nonconference teams that made deep tournament runs and won conference championships last season. Tecumseh plays in the Icebreaker event at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep against Detroit Country Day on Saturday and also faces Temperance-Bedford (23-1 last season), reigning Division 3 runner-up Blissfield and Grand Blanc.  

Without a senior on the team and no JV squad, Tecumseh will play essentially this group for the next 50 or more games. It’s a two-year window with virtually the same team. 

“We’re doing what we can to win this year,” Zajac said. “We want this year to be super successful. We are just taking it one game at a time and going from there. We want to keep building and getting better every day, every game. Hopefully by the end of next year, we’ll be where we need to be.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Tecumseh’s Alli Zajac makes her move toward the lane last season against Adrian. (Middle) Kristy Zajac coaches her team, which finished 20-5 in 2022-23. (Photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne/Adrian Daily Telegram.)