The Howell boys basketball team, fresh off its first league title in 21 years, will begin its quest for a KLAA crown tonight.
Coach Nick Simon says tonight’s opponent, Waterford Mott, is better than its 7-9 record.
“They struggled at the beginning, but they’ve been playing well the last 10 games,” he said. “They’re playing a heck of a lot better than your typical 4 seed.”
The Highlanders (11-5) and Corsairs (7-9) meet tonight at Mott High School.
Howell is coming off an overtime loss at Grand Blanc on Monday. The Highlanders got there when Johnny Shields made up a 10-point deficit himself in the final minute-plus, then went on to lose 74-63.
Starting point guard Josh Palo missed the game with an illness, but Simon believes the source of the loss was more fundamental.
“I think we’ve got to get back to our defensive focus and rebounding,” he said. “Now that we’re in tournament play, I think our energy is going to be up, and it needs to be. It’s hard to flip a switch and play as hard as you can.”
Mott started out the season 2-6 before winning five of its next eight.
“They’re playing a heck of a lot better than your typical 4 seed,” Simon said.
Mott features a bevy of guards whom Simon said are athletic and quick.
“They remind me of Pinckney in a way,” Simon said. “They’re not real big. They have one or two guys who are decent-sized, but they’ve got a lot of guards and they can all play well.
“They have one athletic (big man) that we have to keep off the boards,” he continued. “Our main thing, because we’re not a very big team, is we have to rebound well. I think keeping them out of the lane is No. 2. And they have a couple kids who are knockdown jump shooters, so making sure those kids don’s get open looks is going to be critical for sure.”
A win would move Howell to the Lakes Conference semifinals, where the Highlanders would play the winner of the Walled Lake Central-Pinckney matchup on Tuesday.
“I think they’re a team that’s rounding into form,” Simon said of Mott. “At full strength, they’ve been a darn good basketball team. We’re not taking them lightly at all.”