Brighton coach Paul Ash was glad to see his team back on the court Wednesday in the semifinals of the Class A girls basketball district tournament at Hartland, even if his Bulldogs got off to a slow start.
“We didn’t play our best in the first quarter,” he said, “but then we got the jitters out and the pressure of playing in districts and we were amped up a little bit. But we settled down and then we were fine.”
The Bulldogs (14-7) rolled past South Lyon, 44-23, and earned a spot in tonight’s district championship game against Howell, which knocked off South Lyon East 52-39.
Tonight’s game, which begins at 6 p.m., will be broadcast on The Livingston Post.
The Bulldogs split with Howell (19-2) this season, with each team winning at home. Ash says his team “is looking forward to the challenge.
“This Howell team is so good in the middle with (Erin) Honkala,” he said. “She’s always been a great defensive presence, and now she’s added a strong offensive game to her skill set. That makes her real tough to handle.”
But Ash knows well the Highlanders aren’t The Erin Honkala Show.
“They’re solid at the point,” he said, referring to sophomore Lexie Miller. “She’s one of the best point guard in the league, and she’s extremely quick and can shoot the 3. Her running mate, (Paige) Johnson, shoots 3s as well as anyone. And (post player Leah) Weslock can step up and hit the 3, too. There’s a lot to try and cover.”
Ash was in the stands Monday night when the Highlanders beat Hartland in overtime despite Weslock and Honkala slowed by a virus, Johnson on the sidelines after fouling out and the fifth starter, defensive standout Rita Pecuch, on the sideline with an injury.
They won thanks in large part to Miller, who had 10 points down the stretch while handling the ball almost exclusively.
“She’s as good as there is at point guard,” Ash said, “and she has a good feel as to when to take over a game, which is what makes this such a tough challenge.”
Having said all that, Ash has a plan for his Bulldogs tonight.
“You have to pick your poison a little bit,” he said. “If your defense takes something away, they’ll give something up, and we have to decide what we want to take away. If they beat us by finding another way, hats off to them.
“We still want to run and get the transition game going, ” Ash continued. “Offensively, we need to be patient and take good shots, not take quick shots and have to defend more often.”