HOWELL — Nonconference games are for learning, building blocks for the league season to come.
That was the case for the Howell girls basketball team Tuesday night, in a 64-26 romp over Ann Arbor Pioneer that left coach Tim Olszewski pleased — and not a little relieved.
“It was a good game for us,” he said. “They’re very physical and very athletic, and it was a good test for us to be able to keep our composure against that kind of aggressiveness and tenacity.”
The Pioneers (3-4) were no match for the Highlanders (5-1), who rolled out to a 20-4 lead after the first quarter. Pioneer made a run early in the second quarter to cut Howell’s lead to 10, 20-10, but the Highlanders then took over for good.
The aggressiveness came on both sides, which combined for more than 40 fouls. Erin Honkala was double-teamed most of the game, but finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and five assists despite being in foul trouble and sitting for most of the fourth quarter with the game long in hand.
“It was good to get the week started and get this out of the way,” she said. “We fell down a little bit (in the second quarter). They tried to get us down to their level, but we pulled ourselves together and played it out.”
Pioneer’s plan to slow Honkala left others open, and the Highlanders took advantage. Leah Weslock had 15 points and Paige Johnson 13 despite hitting the floor hard a couple of times.
“They’re very unselfish,” Olszewski said. “They deflect. They don’t care about attention, They’d rather pass to a teammate than score themselves. We’re fortunate that they are a true team. In a game like tonight, where they take away some of your players, others had to step up. They look for them. They look for each other, and it allowed some other people opportunites, and they capitalized.”
The double-teaming of Honkala, Olszewski allowed, isn’t a new thing.
“We’ve seen triple teams,” he said. “Erin’s just an outstanding player. I thought Rita (Pecuch) did a nice job (at the point) and Paige was diving on the floor. She took a beating, but she’s a tough kid and she got up and kept playing. Overall I thought the team played pretty good and we’re looking forward to Friday.”
For sophomore Lexie Miller, Tuesday was the start of a welcome routine.
“It’s definitely fun to be back on the court (playing games),” she said. Games are fun to play, and we’re getting into a routine now.”
For most of the next two months, the Highlanders will be playing on Tuesdays and Fridays, beginning with Friday’s home game against Milford to open the KLAA West season.
“We’re all really excited and confident about it,” Honkala said.