Hartland girls basketball coach Don Palmer likes to quote one of his former players at Milford, who once said, “Players play, coaches worry.”
That, and 40-plus years of coaching experience, gives him a little leeway to express concerns as his 19-1 Eagles begin the state tournament tonight with a Class A district game against South Lyon at South Lyon East.
“Our last three games have been against Brighton, Howell and Wayne Memorial,” he said. “Those have been emotional games. We’re due to maybe play a game that’s flat or uninspired or whatever, and this is not the time to have one of those games. That’s my concern. We’ll see.”
The Eagles haven’t seen too many teams run zone defenses against them either, and South Lyon (8-11) has run several different versions of zones this season.
“We’ve prepared for all that,” Palmer said. “But sometimes zones come down to how well you’re shooting, what type of rhythm you get into.”
The Lions will have their work cut out for them, with Grayson Cockerham and Lexey Tobel shooting from the outside and 6-3 Whitney Sollom inside.
“I think we’re like everyone else,” Palmer said. “When we shoot it well, it triggers the defense. The kids get excited and they play a little harder when they don’t have the ball. A good start is beneficial to every team.
“There are two big differences from this year to last,” he continued. “When we went into scoring droughts this year, we still played pretty hard on the defensive end. The kids are older and more mature, and Whitney is with us now, and (she) makes up for a lot of mistakes. She’s waiting in the wings if they go by you, and they have to shoot over her.”
The Eagles, who won a regional title two years ago, were ousted by Howell in last year’s district.
“We have a couple of tapes on them,” Palmer said of the Lions. “I don’t think they’re a great team, but I don’t think they’re a bad team. I was impressed with the guards of South Lyon East, but South Lyon has beaten them twice. So it’s an interesting dynamic.”
Palmer says his Eagles are aware of the task at hand.
“They understand it’s one-and-done,” he said. “I told them what you don’t need is the two Grand Blanc (games) we had where every possession was pressure-packed. We made a lot of errors because we were trying to make plays before things could unfold. I think they realize that, and I think we’re a better team than South Lyon. But that doesn’t mean we’re going to win.”