Hartland girls take on Mercy in basketball regional

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HARTLAND — Don Palmer’s default public position on his team is this: Worry about his team’s readiness for an opponent until it proves otherwise.

So far, so good. The Eagles are 22-1 going into tonight’s Class A regional game with Farmington Hills Mercy (20-3) at North Farmington.

It’s the second game of a doubleheader and is scheduled for 7 p.m. Novi and Walled Lake Western will play at 5 p.m.

Hartland coach Don Palmer explains a concept during practice Tuesday. The 22-1 Eagles will take on 20-3 Farmington Hills Mercy tonight in a Class A regional semifinal. (Photo by Tim Robinson)

“They’re typical Mercy,” Palmer said. “Big, strong, physical kids. Probably more athletic than they are basketball players, although they have a couple of very good players.”

The Marlins are adept at changing defenses, Palmer said, going from man-to-man t0 a trap zone to a 3-2 or a 1-3-1 zone.

But that’s not what he’s concerned about.

“We’ll be OK with the matchups,” he said. “It depends on mentally where we’re at, because we’re playing a historic program, a Mercy, or a (Birmingham) Marian or a (Detroit King), and you have to make sure it’s a basketball game and we can win it.”

Adding to his concern is the availability of Graysen Cockerham, who sustained what Palmer called “a pretty good poke in the (right) eye” in Friday’s district win over Howell.

That could mean more minutes for Abby Ratkowiak, who stepped in for Cockerham at the wing and scored nine points despite playing an unfamiliar position.

“Graysen will play,” Palmer said. “She won’t be 100 percent, but she will play, and that’s a break for us.”

As for the Marlins, “we know they’re going to be a good team,” Michelle Moraitis said. “We know they’re kind of big, so we have to be ready for that. We know they’re a good team, and we have to come out ready to beat them. We have to be in the right mindset.”

“We have to take the physicalness and not hide from it,” junior forward Emily Messner said, “but go to it and bring it to them as well. You can’t get beat up. You have to give it back. You can’t just let it happen.”

Later in a conversation, Palmer allows that he thinks his team will be mentally ready, too.

“It’s kind of rarefied air for us,” he said. “Because we’re so talented, we’ve gotten to play teams we otherwise wouldn’t play. I think we can compete with most people, and we have to avoid having that bad night in tournament play.”

The Eagles, who went to the Class A quarterfinals two years ago, missed the regionals last year after being eliminated in the districts by Howell.

“We’re definitely more ready this year,” Moraitis said. “Last year kind of helped. We lost the battle, but this year we’ll win the war.”