The new KLAA has meant a lot of change this season for basketball teams of both genders.
Gone are the days when teams played division foes twice and conference foes once yearly.
This year, the first since the KLAA dropped from 24 to 14 teams, coaches and players are in non-conference mode all of the time.
“We’ve had to do a lot of advance scouting,” Brighton girls coach Paul Ash said. “I had to do a lot more scouting because you don’t have the familiarity you have with the Howells and Hartlands.”
Still, Ash knows what to expect when his team plays host to Northville tonight at Brighton High School, a game that will be broadcast on The Livingston Post starting at around 7:15 p.m.
“Northville’s a very good team, and they’re a good addition to our (division),” Ash said. “I watched them play Fordson, and we played them in a crossover last year, so we have some tape on them.”
The Mustangs come in with a 4-0 mark, while Brighton is 3-1.
“They have five seniors who play a lot,” Ash said. “They have a couple of sophomores who play a lot, but they rely on their seniors, who have played a lot of basketball for them over the last three years. They’re all between 5-foot-8 and 5-11, so they have some versatility on defense, too.”
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, have youth, and plenty of it. Six sophomores see significant minutes, led by sophomore Sophie Dziekan, a 6-2 center who Ash believes will play at the Division 1 level in college.
Brighton also has experience on the wing with Dana Schemanske, who is equally adept from beyond the arc as well as driving to the basket.
“We’ve got to defend the (3-point) arc,” Ash said. “They like to shoot the 3s, so we have to have good closeouts. If we can keep them from driving the late and get out to their shooters, we’ll have a good chance.”
Ash also will look to wear down the Mustangs with numbers.
“We’re playing 10-11 kids every game,” he said. “No. 1, because they’re all solid players and No. 2, it’s developing depth for this year and next year down the road.”
That’s when the Bulldogs expect to see sophomore Isabelle Viau and freshman Grace Griffin return after both suffered ACL tears over the summer.
“We’re not consistent with where we want to be,” Ash said, talking about his young players, “but we’re making good progress.”
Northville should provide a test of that progress tonight.