ST. JOHNS — Howell basketball coach Tim Olszewski had a vision for what he expects his team to look like this season.
And then there was the first half of Tuesday’s game.
“I thought before the game we were going to see about three minutes of jitters,” Olszewski said after Tuesday’s 40-30 season-opening win over the Redwings. “Instead, both teams had jitters the whole first half. I went into (the locker room) at halftime and told the girls I didn’t know who I was watching.”
The Highlanders trailed 18-11 against a St. Johns team that was junior-laden as opposed to the senior-heavy Howell lineup.
“We were a little rough in the first half,” Howell’s Lexie Miller said.
That roughness manifested itself in mental mistakes, nerves and shots that rarely went through the basket.
“There were shots, all of the time, that we passed up that we never pass up,” Olszewski said. “I think part of it was that we didn’t want to make a mistake, and we got back into it and started coming back.”
The Highlanders, led by Miller, started running on St. Johns, who chased Miller in vain for most of the night. Leah Weslock had seven points in the third quarter, the last on a 3-pointer that she left her shooting hand in the air after the shot until it went through.
“It was a great confidence booster,” Miller said. “Once one person makes a shot, it’s a domino effect and you get into the groove. We didn’t have a flow in the first half, but we started pushing the ball more in the second half and it ended up working out.”
Part of it, Weslock said, was a mental adjustment.
“They were just scrappy and a lot quicker,” she said of St. Johns. We didn’t pass the ball fast enough, and they would recover easy.”
Once the Highlanders picked up the pace, they started drawing fouls and putting the game away at the line. Howell made one basket in the fourth quarter, but hit 13 of 16 attempted free throws.
Weslock finished with a team-high 16 points, going 5-for-6 from the line down the stretch, while Miller had 10, including a 4-for-4 performance at the line in the fourth.
“It became a basketball game, and look what happens when we play basketball,” Olszewski said. “:We’re a very very strong basketball team. We just have to avoid some of those pitfalls we ran into in the first half, which I imagine we will. Hopefully not have many more of those moving forward.
“But we played a tough team on the road and get out of here with a W,” Olszewski said. “A double-digit win. We’ll take it.”
Weslock was more concise when asked about Tuesday’s game film.
“We’ll take it, learn from it, and get better from it,” she said.