Howell has beaten Hartland three times this season, the last on Friday night.
But when the schools meet in a girls basketball district opener at Hartland tonight, Howell coach Tim Olszewski says that won’t matter. At all.
“We have to beat them one time,” he said. “That’s our focus, playing our game, doing what we do well and hoping everything turns out well.”
Tonight’s contest, which will be broadcast on The Livingston Post, has one aspect the other games didn’t — it’s win or go home.
“They’re very tough in the octagon,” Hartland coach Don Palmer joked, referring to the Highlanders.
In that vein, he was asked, will the Eagles be counting on a home-octagon advantage?
“We’re hoping,” he said, laughing. “I know we have talented kids, but we don’t have a lot of seniors who are getting minutes, and that’s a key. We do OK on Erin (Honkala), but that leadership she provides helps them.”
But Olszewski is plenty wary of both the Eagles and playing a tournament game on their home floor.
“They have the experience,” he said, referring to Hartland’s run to the quarterfinals last year. “And it’s on their home court, so anything can happen. Weird things happen. It’s a challenge for us. We’ve won the last three, but that assures nothing.”
One of Palmer’s favorite sayings is “Players play, coaches worry.” He said his team was in high spirits following a practice and pizza lunch on Sunday.
“We’re excited to play,” he said. “The kids were upbeat and I’m ready to go. You don’t have time to pout in basketball. You can lick your wounds, but you have to put the uniform back on real quick.”
“I see two team battling, showing resolve and wanting to battle to the end,” Olszewski said. “It’s exhausting, mentally and physically. Those kids will be ready. They’ll be hungry and we have to rise to the challenge.”
Pinckney is the other team playing tonight, taking on Dexter in a Class A district game at Ann Arbor Huron.
The Pirates (12-8) had their best season in five years, but are taking on a Dreadnaughts squad that finished the season 18-1.
They’ll hit the floor without all-conference guard Dakota Selmi, who is out with a concussion.
“Chloe Hanifan will be starting at the point, and there’s nothing she’ll see that she hasn’t seen before,” coach Jarrett Cogswell said. “We talk about playing with confidence, coming out and believing. We had a good practice today, and we hope it carries over.”
The key, he said, is defense.
“They like to run, and we like too, also,” Cogswell said. “But we have to make sure we get back and get set in the paint. We have to defend the whole floor.”
Of Pinckney’s eight losses, only one, to Livonia Churchill on Friday, was to a team that hadn’t won at least 14 games during the regular season.
“We started slow and nearly won it,” Cogswell said of the Churchill loss. “We’re just getting better and better.”