Howell coach Tim Olszewski isn’t worried about his team being ranked in The Associated Press top 10 this week.
“I think it’s a nice tribute to the girls and how hard they’ve been working, and to Livingston County in a way,” he said. “We’ve always felt our particular area, with Hartland, Brighton and Howell, that’s pretty good basketball.”
The Highlanders take their ranking and a bit of a grudge to Hartland tonight, where they will meet the Eagles in a game that will be broadcast on The Livingston Post.
“I was selfishly hoping they would come in undefeated,” Hartland coach Don Palmer says. “They lost a tough game at DeWitt. If anything, they will definitely take us seriously now if they hadn’t before.”
There’s this, too: Until Wednesday’s loss at DeWitt, Howell hadn’t lost to a team other than Hartland since a regional semifinal loss in March 2016. Hartland won all four games between the teams last year after Howell had swept four games from Hartland the season before.
“They’re an exceptional team,” Olszewski said of the Eagles. “We’re playing at their place and with all the history between the teams, we anticipate a dogfight.”
Palmer knows stopping all five Howell starters won’t be possible.
“I think you’ve got to pick your poison,” he said. “If you have to focus on two, it’s got to be Alexis (Miller) and Leah (Weslock). You’re not going to be able to guard them all, and if you let a couple go, you have to hope they miss the shot.”
Graysen Cockerham and Whitney Sollom are two of the main scoring threats for the Eagles.
Olszewski says his team is ready for both the spotlight that comes with being ranked and the challenge it presents.
“Every team we play, we feel, is going to give us their best game,” Olszewski said. “If we are going to be where we want to be at the end of the year, we have to accept these challenges and prepare for them. I do believe it does increase the target on the back and it gives ammunition for teams to say let’s knock off that team, and now you talk about a team like Hartland, a very well coached team, a very good skilled team, and one of the rivals. We’re going on the road, and that takes it to a whole other level.”
As for tonight’s game, Palmer shared a strategy he and the Eagles will work from tonight.
“If we play the game in the low 40s, high 30s, we have a shot,” he said. “But if it gets to 50 or above, they’re going to win. We know what we got to do, but whether we can do it remains to be seen.”