This was supposed to be an exciting week for high school sports in Livingston County.
The county had a girls’ soccer team and a softball team that were ranked second in the state in Division 1. Baseball, of course, is always a strong sport in these parts, with three teams still alive during regional competition last Saturday.
But while teams from across Michigan will vie for state championships this week, the 2016-17 high school sports year in Livingston County is over.
Four teams came one step away from surviving to play this week, only to lose in regional championship games. Another lost in a competitive regional semifinal.
So, instead of looking forward to potential greatness this week, it’s time to look back on the best teams that Livingston County had to offer in 2016-17.
10. Brighton gymnastics
Brighton had the highest finish by a Livingston County team in a nonbracketed sport this school year, placing third behind Rockford and Canton.
Hannah Bracken won vault and Courtney Casper won floor exercise to lead Brighton. In the individual competition, Casper was the all-around champion, with Bracken taking ninth.
9. Brighton girls’ swimming
Backed by Taylor Seaman’s historic performance, Brighton finished seventh in the state Division 1 meet at Oakland University.
Seaman won the 50-yard freestyle and the 100 freestyle, while anchoring relay teams to second- and fifth-place finishes. All four of her times were school records. Megan Lubinski and Chloe Reed were also on two All-State relay teams.
8. Hartland girls’ basketball
This team was knocked out of the state tournament earlier than any other on the list, but one game can’t diminish Hartland’s dominance in girls’ basketball.
The Eagles were 22-1, ranked 10th in the state and riding an 18-game winning streak when they blew a fourth-quarter lead in a 47-42 regional semifinal loss to Farmington Hills Mercy. Hartland went 4-0 against a Howell team that was 18-0 against every other team on its schedule, winning three of those games by at least 20 points.
7. Howell softball
Howell (38-3) pounded its opposition on the way to the No. 2 ranking in the state heading into the state tournament. The Highlanders scored in double figures in 28 of their first 39 games, winning KLAA and district championships.
The addition of freshman pitcher Molly Carney was the missing piece for a team that had no trouble scoring runs. Well, until regionals. After squeaking past Richland Gull Lake, 2-1, in the semifinals, Howell lost to Mattawan for the third straight year in the regional final, 4-2.
6. Brighton girls’ soccer
The Bulldogs were ranked second in the state heading into the regional championship game, but had the misfortune of running into top-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central. The Rangers controlled the play like no other team had against Brighton this season, winning 3-1.
Brighton (17-2-3) was 4-0-2 against teams ranked in the top 17 in the final poll. The Bulldogs won the KLAA championship for the first time since 2009 with a 2-1 victory over Novi. The KLAA had nine of the top 18 teams in the final rankings.
5. Pinckney girls’ cross country
Pinckney finished fifth in the state Division 1 girls’ cross country meet after taking second to Brighton in an epic 37-38 regional battle. Pinckney senior Isabella Garcia was the first county finisher, placing 44th in 19:20.3. Her freshman sister, Mia, was 53rd in 19:25.4.
Pinckney matched its 2009 and 2010 teams for the highest girls’ cross country state finishes in school history.
4. Hartland wrestling
The Eagles dealt with injuries all season long in defense of their state championship. It was a testament to the depth of the program that Hartland reached the state semifinals before losing to eventual-champion Detroit Catholic Central, 54-10.
Winning a 16th straight regional championship wasn’t a given, as Hartland went up against a Walled Lake Central team that beat the Eagles in the Lakes Conference final. Hartland, playing with closer to a full deck in the rematch, got revenge in the regional semifinals. Hartland had six All-Staters in the individual finals.
3. Hartland boys’ lacrosse
Livingston County has never had a boys’ lacrosse team seriously capable of contending for a state championship. Hartland became the first team that could make such a claim, going 21-0 before losing 12-11 in overtime to Detroit Catholic Central in the state semifinals. Hartland had possession twice with a chance to win the game.
Catholic Central went on to lose by one goal to 13-time state champion Birmingham Brother Rice. Could Hartland have been the team to end Brother Rice’s run? It’s a question that will haunt the Eagles, even as they feel justifiable pride in an unprecedented season.
2. Hartland hockey
Remove Birmingham Brother Rice from the picture, and Hartland might’ve celebrated its first state championship.
The Eagles were 25-1-1 against every other team on their schedule, but lost to Brother Rice 4-0 in the regular season and 5-2 in the state Division 2 semifinals. Brother Rice, arguably the best team in the state regardless of division, went on to win the Division 2 title.
Hartland was 4-0 against the top three teams in Division 1, including a two-game sweep of Brighton.
1. Brighton hockey
Brighton’s hockey team produced the only MHSAA team championship in Livingston County in the 2016-17 school year.
After struggling to end the regular season, the Bulldogs (24-6-1) went 6-0 in the state tournament, avenging a loss in the 2016 state final with a 5-2 victory over Detroit Catholic Central.
The signature moment of the postseason run was freshman Will Jentz’s overtime goal in a 2-1 victory over top-ranked Orchard Lake St. Mary’s in the regional final.
Honorable mention: Brighton baseball, Brighton competitive cheer, Brighton girls’ cross country, Brighton boys’ soccer, Brighton girls’ golf, Brighton wrestling, Fowlerville baseball, Hartland baseball, Hartland boys’ golf, Hartland girls’ lacrosse, Howell girls’ basketball, Howell baseball.