Brighton coach Paul Ash was in a less than jovial mood after his team lost to Howell last week, 51-45.
“We closed a gap,” he said. “We lost by 17 (the first meeting) and closed it to six. We’ve still got a ways to go.”
Howell coach Tim Olszewski, on the other hand, chuckled when it was pointed out that if the Bulldogs improve by 11 points again, his team will be in trouble when they meet in a KLAA girls basketball tournament semifinal tonight at Howell High School.
“That would be bad for us,” he said. “Let’s hope they had some bad practices.”
He then laughed, knowing the very slim likelihood of that happening.
“Brighton’s a good basketball team,” he said. “Very good. How many times do you play them? It’s hard. It’s hard to keep a great team from getting a W. We know they’re going to come in with a lot of energy and they want to make it to the KLAA championship round. So, yeah, it’s going to be a battle because we’re playing a good team for the third time already.”
And the Bulldogs (14-4) gave the Highlanders (16-2) all they wanted last Tuesday, leading must of the first half and staying close until Howell got a little momentum going down the stretch.
“It was a battle all the way,” Olszewski said. “They jumped out to a pretty nice lead and we had to work hard to get back into it. If we can keep that from happening, it would be a bonus this time around. They’ve got good shooters and a good post player. It’s going to be anyone’s basketball game again.”
Monday’s contest is one of two semifinals. Hartland takes on Wayne in the other. The winner will play at either Howell or Brighton for the league title on Thursday.
As far as the Highlanders and Olszewski are concerned, each game is a must-win.
“We’ve got to play Brighton and maybe Hartland, which are very good basketball teams,” Olszewski said. “Wayne Memorial is a phenomenal basketball team, and you’ve got the districts. Then, you’ve got a regional with Ann Arbor Huron and Walled Lake Western.
“You’re going to have to win those games eventually, so I guess we’ll be tested early. For the kids, it’s such a mentally grueling season and you have to be at your best. If you’re not, a slipup here and there and you could lose.”