As the girls basketball season nears its midpoint, the KLAA West season begins to heat up as well.
Three teams — Brighton, Hartland and Howell — begin what is effectively a mini-tournament tonight, when Hartland travels to Brighton. Howell is at Hartland Tuesday and Brighton travels to Howell next Friday.
“I think Pinckney is going to have a say, and so is Grand Blanc,” Hartland coach Don Palmer said. “But, barring injury, those are the top three teams at this point.”
It will be a contest of contrasts, between a veteran Hartland team with a talented freshman and a Brighton team that is young (three freshmen and two sophomores play key roles) with strong senior leadership.
“The first thing you notice is their length,” Brighton coach Paul Ash said. “They’re 6-2 (freshman Whitney Sollom) and (senior Lexey) Tobel plays like she’s six feet tall. (Greysen) Cockerham is 5-9 and plays six feet tall. They’re athletic with length. Everyone talks about their offense, but I’m more impressed with their defense. They challenge everything and they give up nothing easy.”
Both teams are 7-1 overall, 2-0 in the division. Brighton’s loss came against a tough Marquette team, while Hartland fell to Class A powerhouse Detroit King a month ago in a game the Eagles led at halftime.
“The big thing is we have to have quality possessions,” Ash said. “WE can’t take quick shots and we can’t take bad shots, because then they go get it, run the floor, put it on the rim and go get it. WE have to do a great job with our shot selection and offensive boards, and try to keep them one-and-done as much as possible at the offensive end.”
As for Hartland, “I think this is a big game for both teams,” Palmer said. “Maybe a little more for them than use, because they’re at home, and I do think whoever wins the West will have to win all of their home games. You’ve got to defend your home court.”
It will be the first meeting of the season between the teams, who will play at Hartland next month and could meet in both the Lakes Conference tournament and the district final.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Ash said. “The last thing we told the girls is that these are the kind of games you’ll remember 20 years from now. It’s one of those special games. They’re excited and looking forward to the opportunity. We’ll lace them up tomorrow and see how we do.”