HOWELL — At first glance, tonight’s home game with Northville looks to be a chance for the Howell boys basketball team to maybe let off the gas a little bit.
After all, the Highlanders have clinched the KLAA West Division title, and it’s Senior Night, with nine players being honored in pregame ceremonies.
But Howell coach Nick Simon disagrees.
“We have a lot of guys who have worked really hard for a long time, so sending them out the right way is important,” he said. “But the way the district tournament is seeded this year, it’s critical for us to win out, so we can get the highest seed in our district.”
Northville, of course, is in the same boat, needing to win to both improve its seeding in the postseason and needing a win to keep its chances of playing in the KLAA championship round alive.
It should add up to another strong matchup tonight for the Highlanders in a game that will be broadcast on The LIvingston Post. Click here for a link.
The schedule has ramped up for the Highlanders, who clinched the division title with a triple-overtime win over Canton at home on Tuesday, then will face Westland John Glenn in the first round of the KLAA tournament, with either Belleville, Canton or Northville in the regular season finale.
“Things have really set up well, with games getting continually harder and the opposition getting continually better,” Simon said. “The year is ending in a good way for us.”
First things first, though, and getting through the emotions and distractions of Senior Night are paramount for the Highlanders.
“That first quarter you need to get out of with the game being close,” Simon said. “You’re going to start some guys you’re not normally going to start. There’s some weird emotions with the ceremonies and things like that. Once the second quarter begins, things are pretty even. It’s a normal game, but you have to make sure you don’t dig yourself a big hole in the first quarter.”
The Mustangs, meanwhile, won’t be lacking in motivation.
“They’re going to fight tooth and nail,” Simon said, “because they want to make sure they finish in second place in the division. So they have a lot to play for as well. It’s going to be like a (postseason) tournament game because both teams have a lot to play for.”
Another good crowd is expected on what is also being called “Dress Like (Nick) Simon Night,” complete with cardboard cutouts of Simon with various facial expressions on them.
“I’m sure we’re going to have a big crowd,” Simon said. “I think playing on a Friday night here is as good an atmosphere as any place I’ve been.”