HOWELL — The time to celebrate last year’s trip to the Breslin Center is long past.
For Howell boys basketball coach Nick Simon, the time to celebrate Monday’s district win over Hartland was ended shortly after the game did.
“It’s all about enjoying the moment when it’s done, not during it,” he said of a possible district title. You get a trophy when it’s done that night. If it’s not a trophy bight, you have to be thinking about that next game.”
That next game comes tonight, when the Highlanders (17-4) are home against Fenton (9-11) in the opening game of a district semifinal game at Howell High School. Game time is at 6 p.m., and the game will be broadcast on The Livingston Post.
Fenton has been struggling as of late, but Simon takes nothing for granted.
“They’re going to be a solid opponent,” he said. “we saw them in a scrimmage at the beginning of the year. They’ve got good players, a good coaching staff, and it’s the playoffs. We tell our guys, ‘You’re going to see the best version of whomever we play.’ We’ve had a lot of examples recently. A couple of years ago, South Lyon had a kid who hit seven 3s, and on film he was 0-for-25 in five games we scouted.
“You can’t leave anything to chance,” Simon continued, “and so you have ot play really hard. That’s our message. You have to make sure you’re working.”
Simon could have been talking about one of his own players, Peyton Ward, whose all-out play was a key role in Monday’s win over Hartland.
He had 13 points, including several key free throws down the stretch, and seven rebounds.
“He steps up and hits a pretty-much-game-clinching 3, hits all of his free throws at the end, and does an incredible job for a guy who’s probably our fourth or fifth option scoring the ball,” Simon said of Ward. “Seniors make big plays at this time of year. It’s huge for us that he had that confidence at the end. He’s a very good free-throw shooter and he’s strong. If he has the ball, you’re going to have to foul him. His hitting those free throws opens things up for us.”
Tony Honkala (20 points on Monday) and Bobby Samples (10), two more seniors, have been the linchpins of the Howell offense and defense this season, and nights like Ward’s and that of Will Hann, who hit three 3-pointers in a row in the first quarter to give the Highlanders the lead for good, have been key to their success.
But right now it’s about winning, and the team in front of them, in this case the Fenton Tigers.
That precludes any serious discussion by the Highlanders about a possible rematch with Linden, which plays Holly in the second game of tonight’s doubleheader.
“You can’t look ahead,” Simon said. “That’s the thing about the playoffs. You can’t look behind, you can’t look ahead.
“When it’s all said and done, we’ll enjoy what we did,” he added. “But it’s not the time for that.”