HOWELL — At the beginning of the week, the Howell boys basketball team was looking to control its destiny.
On Friday, going into Saturday’s game at an invitational in Ann Arbor, the Highlanders are now looking to stop the bleeding.
On Thursday night, it was Pinckney who took advantage of the slumping Highlanders, using a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter to salt away a 65-44 victory.
The Pirates (6-8 overall, 3-5 KLAA West) used a stifling defense and red-hot shooting (over 70 percent from the floor) to win their second in a row and hand the Highlanders their second loss in a row.
“They shot 80 percent in the first half,” a somber Howell coach Nick Simon quietly joked, “so I guess we played better defense (in the second half).”
Pirates coach Tom Reason focused his team’s effort in part on Howell senior Derek Kerner.
“He’s a fantastic player,” Reason said. “We were trying to keep him off the ball. He’s a very good defender, times things well and is a very good shot blocker. We were also trying to keep it out of his hands (on offense). We wanted to make sure the offense can’t flow through him.”
But the Pirates also worked on denying the ball inside and keeping it away from leading scorer Jon Shields. Every time Howell tried to feed the ball in the paint there were two or three players looking to swat it away. Shields, meanwhile, was held to just two points.
“Jonny was a huge focus point,” Pirates junior guard Evan Fackler said. “We always have to know where he is, because he’s a great player.”
Pinckney never trailed in the game, running out to a 6-0 lead and never looking back.
“I wasn’t overly upset with the offense,” Simon said. “It was defensively where I thought we weren’t ready to play. We didn’t get too many good looks, and they took advantage of every look they had.”
The Pirates led 35-21 at the half after leading by as many as 18 points early in the second quarter.
Pinckney picked up where it left off in the second half before the Highlanders surged early in the fourth quarter, getting the lead down to 10, 52-42.
Howell put on a press and started hitting shots during the run, but then went cold again. The Pirates took advantage, scoring the next 13 points to put the contest out of reach.
Howel began the week with a 64-50 loss at Grand Blanc on Tuesday, and Simon, who said his team had a good practice Wednesday, worried about his team’s mental outlook afterward.
“Our passion the whole week has been subpar,” he said. “When you have no passion, this is what happens.”
The Highlanders take on Ypsilanti Arbor Prep at 3:30 p.m. Saturday as part of an invitational at Ann Arbor Huron.
“It’s another opportunity for us to get more passionate about what you’re doing,” Simon said. “It’s a turning point of the season. You’ve got to make a choice as to what you really want to be.”
Kerner and Daniel Zolinski had 13 apiece for Howell (8-5, 5-3).=
Kolton Pavlicek led all scorers with 18 points for the Pirates before fouling out. Fackler added 15 and Michael Bankes had 13.
“Hopefully, if we keep playing like we did tonight, we can beat anyone on a given night,” Reason said. “We just haven’t seen this as frequently as we’d like.”
He then laughed, a coach happy to have two wins in a row as the season heads into the home stretch.