The Hartland boys basketball team got something most teams don’t get this time of year — a week off.
After beating Howell on Feb. 22 in a Lakes Conference semifinal, cancellations due to snow and scheduling problems kept the Eagles on the sideline until tonight, when they play host to Walled Lake Western for the conference championship.
The game, set to start around 7 p.m., will be broadcast on The Livingston Post.
“I think it’s good just to be able to have some time together without a lot of outside distractions,” Hartland coach Kevin Blouin said. “But at the same time, the kids are anxious to play. They’re definitely ready.”
The Eagles (8-9) take on a Western team (14-4) coached by Denny Butcher, who coached at Hartland the previous three seasons.
Hartland won the first meeting between the teams, 43-35, on Dec. 17. That, as far as Blouin is concerned, is ancient history.
“It’s like a whole new team,” he said. “Throughout the course of the season you change and improve. Walled Lake Western has definitely improved throughout the year and are having an outstanding season. But we’ve also improved from where we were at the beginning.”
Certainly, the Eagles are familiar with Butcher and know his style, but Blouin said the past, in this case, isn’t necessarily prologue.
“Sometimes it doesn’t matter if you know what a team is going to do,” he said. “If they can execute really well, it’s going to be tough to stop. Coach Butcher’s teams have always been very economical with their approach, very disciplined. I know they can execute.”
Defense, Blouin said, will be a key.
“We have to play defense as a team and definitely have to rebound as a team,” he said. “They really rebound exceptionally well offensively and defensively, so we’ll have to block them out at all times.”
Meanwhile, Blouin says his players are injury-free and, maybe more important, illness-free.
“There was one point, a couple of weeks ago, where we had so many sick players I encourage the kids to wash their hands before leaving the building,” Blouin said. “Those viruses are going around, and we have to encourage them to stay healthy.”
The winner will play at Canton for the KLAA title on Thursday.