Highlanders hitting on all cylinders at halfway point — with archived broadcast

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HOWELL — The Howell girls basketball team got the weekend off after Friday’s 62-24 rout of Northville, and why not?

The Mustangs came in short two starters, but it likely wouldn’t have made much difference against a Howell team that consistently found the hot hand and made Northville pay.

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In the first quarter, that hand belonged to Leah Weslock, who scored 16 of Howell’s 23 points in the period.

“It was our defense,” she said, asked for the reason. “Our defense was really aggressive and we rebounded really well. We passed the ball and shared it so well that I was open for a bunch of shots.”

Coach Tim Olszewski said his team’s defense was the best he’s seen in his three years as coach, but credited his offense for the spurt as well.

“What I was most proud of was that they made the next open pass,” he said. “They could have shot (the ball), Lexie (Miller) and Paige (Johnson), but they made the next open pass for the shot. That’s girls playing the game and not caring who got credit, and Leah was on fire.”

“We thought we could play them man-to-man,” Northville  coach Todd Gudith said. “And we’re pretty good defensively, most nights. They just had too many weapons.”

When the Mustangs (6-4 overall, 1-4 KLAA Gold) started paying more attention to Weslock by switching to a zone in the second quarter, the Highlanders (9-1, 5-0) adjusted at halftime.

“Leah got more attention (from Northville’s defense), which made the next open pass (to Miller),” Olszewski said. “Lexie was a little more open, and Leah throws it to Lexie. Paige Johnson was phenomenal about making that extra pass. She had chances to shoot the ball. They were closing out and she reversed to Lexie, who was open. They’re just so unselfish.”

Miller took advantage, hitting five 3-pointers in the second half to finish with 19 points.

The second half was more a game-speed scrimmage, with the Mustangs working on their zone and the Highlanders clearing their bench for valuable minutes.

“Our kids weren’t down at the half,” Gudith said, referring to Howell’s 37-4 lead. We wanted to play like it was 0-0 again, start fresh, play our zone and see what we can do with it.”

Olszewski, meanwhile, learned a lot from his reserves.

“We got to play a lot of people a lot of minutes and found what they need to work on,” he said. “You never know when your opportunity is coming. You never know when you’ll be called upon. We have to make sure we don’t lower our standard and that we don’t dip too much when we substitute and rotate.”