Confident Highlanders girls resume basketball season Tuesday

HOWELL — So far, so good for the Howell girls basketball team, which is off to a 4-1 start this season.

The Highlanders end their winter break Tuesday when they play host to Ann Arbor Pioneer (3-3) at 7 p.m.

The game will be broadcast on at around 6:50, with Tim Robinson and former Howell coach Tricia Clark calling the game.

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“It’s great to be back at it,” Howell guard Paige Johnson said. “We worked hard all break, too, to get better for Pioneer.”

The Pioneers lost their season opener to Pinckney and are 1-2 in the SEC Red.

Howell, meanwhile, is playing its final game before beginning KLAA West play on Friday night against Milford.

“We’re getting better ever day in practice,” first-year Howell coach Tim Olszewski said. “We’ve improved since day one of the season, and if we continue to do that, I’ll be happy. The goal is, at the end of the year, to be playing our best basketball, and they’ve bought in. They work so hard and they have such good attitudes. I talked to a couple of girls, and they said practice is fun. They like to work, and that’s what we do.”

It’s a young squad, with four sophomores seeing time with five juniors and just two seniors.

One of the seniors is Erin Honkala, a Northern Michigan signee who is averaging 17 points and eight rebounds per game.

This comes despite a near-180 degree shift in offensive philosophy this season, from the ball-control of former coach Lee Piepho to Olszewski, whose offense for the Fenton boys, where he coached the last 11 seasons, was decidedly uptempo.

“He likes to run a lot more than we’ve seen in the league,” Johnson, one of the four sophomores on the Howell roster, said of her coach. “Just in our own game, we run a lot, we want to score a lot and keep pounding it to you. Our defensie is a lot harder. It’s a lot of fun. A lot more ‘go’ than slowing the game down. We like to play fast and use our athleticism to our advantage.”

The idea is that Honkala will score, but that others can and will, too.

Howell’s only loss was against a strong Haslett team, 61-49, in the second game of the season.

“Haslett played a great game,” Olszewski said. “We out-rebounded them, we had more offensive rebounds, we had fewer turnovers than they did, but they shot the lights out. So then the question is why did they  shoot the lights out. And it was a lot of things we didn’t do. …

“They shot 69 percent from the floor overall,” he added. “Who does that? I told the girls, you lose. It’s highly unlikely that you shoot 70- percent and lose, but the fact is we were still in the game with four minutes to go, and things we did helped the situation.”

Howell hasn’t lost since, winning three in a row.

“It’s an old cliche, I know,” Olszewski said, “But let’s work as hard as we can and let things fall where they may.  but that’s what we do.. and…”

He paused to shout encouragement to another sophomore, Leah Weslock, who had made a play at the other end of the floor.

“LEAH! THAT’S IT! WAY TO GO!” he said, then continued. “We want to play the best we’re capable of playing and whatever happens, happens.”

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