Hartland girls basketball coach Don Palmer, like his counterparts in Brighton and Howell, hasn’t been shy about his misgivings regarding the KLAA tournament.
Chief among them is having to play a team for a third time in the regular season and possibly a fourth time in the district tournament.
It’s happened each of the last two years, with Brighton and Hartland two years ago and Hartland and Howell last season.
The Bulldogs (12-5) and Eagles (16-1) will play for the third time tonight in the Lakes Conference semifinals at Hartland High School.
“I was talking to my team after practice and said, if you win, you’re in that final four, and that would involve probably two more great games,” Palmer said. “The competition would hopefully get you ready for districts or toughen you up for districts, and that would be good.
“But the way we’ve got to do it, to play Brighton a third time, isn’t perfect.”
That could be because, as Palmer well knows, the Bulldogs have given the Eagles fits this season. Both meetings were close, the first a 43-36 win at Brighton, the second a 41-30 triumph at Hartland.
The key, to Palmer, is finding a way to keep Brighton freshman center Sophie Dziekan in check.
“She’s manhandled us,” he said. “The first game she had 10 points, the second 16, and we’ve gotto do a little bit better job defending. I think you’ve got to start out trying to defend the inside. If we’ve got to drop a kid off to double-team her, we might have to do it and roll the dice, whether or not the kick-out pass goes to 3.”
That’s a concern, with Julianna Pietila and Dana Schemanske having proved themselves as capable outside shooters.
“They’ve lost five games, and you know who four of those games were to,” Palmer said, referring to Hartland and Howell. Brighton’s fifth loss was to another Class A power, Marquette, during the first week of the season. “It’s a good team, and I’m well aware we could have lost either of the games we won. It comes down to little things sometimes.”