For years, the Hartland and Brighton girls basketball programs have squared off as two of the best teams in the state, sometimes up to four times per season.
That’s not the case any more, with the contraction of the Kensington Lakes Activities Association from 24 to 16 schools. In those days, they met twice per season, again in the KLAA tournament and a fourth time in districts, a situation Brighton coach Paul Ash and Hartland coach Don Palmer both abhorred.
Now they meet twice during the regular season and once in the postseason.
This year, thanks to a scheduling quirk, their regular-season meetings come tonight and Saturday, a situation neither is thrilled about.
“When the schedule came out, I think I called Paul right away,” Palmer said. “At first, the initial conversation was we need to try to get that changed. But we’re having enough trouble getting the season started. It’s going to be exciting. It certainly is unique.”
The teams play at Brighton tonight in a game that will be broadcast on The Livingston Post starting at about 7 p.m. Saturday’s game at Hartland starts around 6 p.m., depending on how long the junior varsity game goes.
“It’s unfortunate that we’re playing both games this early,” Ash said. “But we’re just glad we’re playing, to be honest.”
Both are 1-0 going into the contest. Brighton won handily against Plymouth, 65-30, on Tuesday, led by sophomore Mary Copple, who had 21 points, Kylie Seiter, who added 19 points and nine rebounds, and Jessica Andrew, who had 13.
Hartland rolled past Howell 51-24 led by Leah Lappin’s 13 points.
Playing games on consecutive nights isn’t that unusual, but playing the same team is.
“We’ve got a game plan going, as I’m sure they do,” Ash said. “We’ll tray to make in-game adjustments as we need, but the real issue is you really can’t do much between games to figure out what went wrong and make those adjustments in practice. You just have to talk to the girls through what we did wrong Friday night. Let’s go fix it on Saturday.”
Hartland, which was 23-1 last season, saw its season end on March 10 when Covid-19 ended the 2019-20 winter season.
“It’s not the game I would like to open with,” Palmer said, “but on the other hand, it’s been 11 months since we coached and played. Let’s just be happy that we’re playing.”
After waiting three months to get the go-ahead to play, the 2021 season will feature 16 games over just six weeks before the tournament begins in mid-March.
Brighton will be short three players due to quarantine this weekend.
“I think everyone’s going to, at some point in time, have to deal with something like that,” Ash said. “But it’s better than not playing.”