Hartland girls basketball coach Don Palmer, informed that his team is ranked No. 1 in the state in Division 1, took the news with a grain of salt on Monday.
“I look at it as being an honor,” he said. “In the greater scheme of things, I’m not sure it matters much. But it’s certainly an honor.”
It’s the first time a Palmer-coached team has ever been ranked No. 1 in the weekly Associated Press high school poll.
“A lot of these rankings are based on what you’ve done in the previous year,” Palmer said. “The last two years we’ve gotten to the quarterfinals and a lot of those kids are back. We’re a good team. Are we No. 1 or worthy of being No. 1? I think that remains to be debated.”
The debate resumes tonight, when the Eagles, 7-0 overall and 2-0 in the KLAA West, play host to Howell (5-1, 2-0) at Hartland High School as basketball broadcasts resume on The Livingston Post. Click here for the link.
The schools have played in a lot of nailbiters over the years, and Howell coach Tim Olszewski is ready to play.
“We’re definitely looking forward to it,” he said. “What a great opportunity, to be matched up against the No. 1 team in the state. i’m very proud that it’s in our conference, and I hope it’s another good game.”
It will be a test for the Highlanders against a Hartland team that has mostly rolled through its schedule, including wins against defending champions in two divisions already this season.
Asked his plans on stopping Hartland, Olszewski said, “I don’t know that you stop them. For me, as long as I’ve coached, we work hard and do things a certain way. We’re going to go out and try to execute our plan and do the things we feel we need to do to make the game competitive. As long as we stick to our guns and implement the things we try to do, I fell it should be a really good ballgame.”
While outsiders might be skeptical, Palmer agrees.
“All the games we’ve had with Howell over the years, whether it was at Hartland or Milford, I don’t ever recall having an easy one,” Palmer said. “It’s a basketball school. They’ve had a history of great players and great coaches, and they’re good every year.”
This battle of unbeatens will be mirrored at Howell, where the Howell and Hartland boys put unblemished KLAA West records on the line as well.