Tim Robinson-Livingston Daily
The KLAA girls basketball tournament begins tonight, and while that means the top four teams in each of the league’s four divisions will play each other over the next two weeks, it also means some possible rematches, too.
That, coaches say, is not an optimal situation.
“It’s not a real good thing if we have to play the Howell-Lakeland winner on Thursday,” Brighton coach Paul Ash said. “The potential to play Howell at home Thursday and again in the district (on March 4, at Howell) is not an ideal situation.”
The reason why, Hartland coach Don Palmer said, is the emotion that goes into playing a rival.
“We switched our team camp from Grand Valley to (the University of) Findlay because we didn’t want to have to play Howell and Brighton two or three times in the summer and two or three more times in the winter,” he said. “Those (rivalry) games take it out of you.”
But, to worry about it, you have to win to get there first.
The first three rounds feature conference crossovers, with Brighton, which won the KLAA’s West Division, playing host to Walled Lake Northern, which was fourth in the North. Hartland is home against Waterford Mott and Howell is home to face Lakeland.
The fifth- and sixth-place teams have their own crossovers, but are not part of the league tournament.
Pinckney, which finished fifth in the West after an overtime win at Milford on Friday, will take on Walled Lake Central, which was fifth in the North.
The tournament continues on Thursday with the semifinals. The conference championships will be played on Feb. 24, with the championship at the home of the Kensington Conference champion on Feb. 26.
“This will prepare us for districts,” Ash said. “There are a lot of good teams in the tournament, and we’ll have tough games regardless of what happens.”
Howell coach Lisa Pawelski, beginning her second week on the job, is looking forward to a second season, of sorts.
“That’s our approach,” she said. “We’re back at 0-0 and we’re going to go in and play as well as we can.”
Pinckney’s Jarrett Cogswell sees it much the same way.
“It’s a whole new tournament, a whole new season,” he said. “We want to be 4-0 in this crossover tournament. We had a real turnaround against Milford (last week in an overtime win). We were in the same situation against Howell, but we learned from that and came out with a W. We didn’t let a late run affect us.”
Tonight will be Howell’s senior night, and while coaches have been known to dread that event, fearing it a distraction, Pawelski isn’t concerned.
“I don’t think it will be trouble for us,” she said. “I think we’ll be ready to play. We’re ready to move on and start the KLAA tournament and do the best we can.”
Certainly, moving on is the key. A loss means up to three games that fill the schedule but can prove problematic with the district tournament looming.
“We’re looking for a quality win,” Palmer said. “It will be tough enough to win this game. We have to make sure we don’t hang our heads (after losing the West Division title at Brighton on Friday) and go out and play. If we can bet Mott, then we get to play Kettering.”
Waterford Kettering is ranked No. 5 in the state in Class A.
“If we can play them, it will help us in the tournament,” he said. “I want to play as many quality teams as I can until we get to the tournament.”
■TONIGHT: KLAA tournament, first round
■THURSDAY: Today’s winners play in conference semifinals; losers in consolation round
■FEB. 24: Conference championships
■FEB. 26: KLAA championship, at Kensington Conference winner
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