HARTLAND — The Hartland girls basketball team, which had struggled against Brighton during two victories, was determined to pick up a third on Thursday night.
“We wanted to get the win to put into their heads that they can’t beat us,” Hartland’s Grayson Cockerham said.
The Eagles never trailed in winning the third meeting, 42-25.
This one wasn’t so much a psychological win as it was a clinical victory.
The Eagles (17-1) cut off Brighton’s leading scorer, Julianna Pietila, who had two points, both on free throws, and held Sophie Dziekan, who averaged 13 points in the first two meetings, to three.
“We did a much better job on Sophia than we did the previous two times,” Hartland coach Don Palmer said. “We tried to front and get some weak-side help. It took me two times to realize you can’t play behind her. So we gave her some different looks, and that’s stuff she’ll adjust to as she gets older.”
Shutting down Pietila was easier: Palmer sicced Michelle Moraitis on her.
“I’d have to run and run and run to get open to get the ball,” Pietila said. “And then, when I am open, I don’t always get the ball, which is really frustrating.”
Moraitis has tortured guards on defense for three years now.
“She was never not on me,” Pietila said. “She doesn’t get tired.”
Inside, Whitney Sollom was a force inside for the Eagles, scoring a game-high 12 points, pulling down rebounds and affecting shots when not blocking them.
It proved too much for the Bulldogs.
“We got layups and didn’t make them,” Brighton coach Paul Ash said. “We turned them over a few times when it was relatively close. We didn’t convert, and you have to convert.”
The Eagles moved on to Monday’s Lakes Conference championship game, which will be played at Hartland. They’ll face another familiar foe in Howell, which beat Waterford Kettering in the other semifinal 41-26.
“It’s the year of the West,” Palmer said. “And it’s been that way for a couple of years. I think there’s three outstanding teams and the other three aren’t bad. It’s just a tough division.”
Brighton will play host to Kensington Conference semifinalist Northville on Monday and finish the season at Canton on Feb.. 23.
“Winning on Tuesday means we’ll have three good games to end the season,” Ash said.