Boys basketball has historic season

howell-high-school1By Sports Editor: Danielle Hamilton

In the season home opener, Howell beat Flint Beecher, a ranked team. Right from the start, the team and fans knew this season was going to be a special one.

After the game against Flint Beecher, junior Jake Wendel said, “This is the start to a great journey.” It has turned out to be one the best journeys for Howell boys basketball in quite some time.

Howell finished second in the league, the KLAA West. The league includes Howell, Brighton, Hartland, Pinckney, Grand Blanc, and Milford. Grand Blanc finished first in the league. 

Before this season, the last time Howell boys basketball won a district title was in 1997. On March 7, 2014, Howell beat Milford 56-41 in the district final game. Howell also beat Milford twice during the regular season. Howell led the majority of the game, with a score of 25-18 at the half. At the end of the third quarter, Milford began to battle back. Howell bounced back in the fourth quarter and began to run away with the game. Senior Tyler Johnson helped with this momentum by scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter alone and 24 over the entire game. Juniors Deajay Klett and Wendel each had nine points in the game.

At the buzzer, Howell seemed cool and collected, even though they had just won the district title. They knew they weren’t done just yet.

“I was so excited when the buzzer went off. It felt so good to be a district champ, especially since it’s been a while since Howell won one. I want more though, I want to keep going,” says senior Kyle Scott. Scott had a huge impact on the Highlanders this season. Being 6-foot 4-inches, he had stellar defense down low and held some big opponents to less points than usual. He also scored often and came through when needed. 

In the first round of regionals, Howell faced Orchard Lake St. Mary’s. Howell got off to a great start, ending the first quarter leading 11-4. St. Mary’s cut the lead down to 17-15 at halftime. Howell came out the win in the end 57-47. This win sent them to the regional final. The last time Howell boys basketball won a regional championship was 1927.

Howell (18-5) was up against Grand Blanc (22-2) for the regional final. In the regular season, Howell had lost to them twice, but it’s difficult to beat someone three times.

The Howell versus Grand Blanc game was very physical. Howell was down most of the game. At halftime the score was 21-29, Grand Blanc with the lead. At one point in the third quarter, Howell was down 29-40. In the fourth quarter, something sparked in Howell and they began to diminish Grand Blanc’s lead. Senior John Brennan and Scott played strong defense and secured some important rebounds. With about two minutes left in the game, a bucket by Brennan made the score 46-45, Howell. With 47.5 seconds left in the game, the score was 48-47, Howell. Howell kept up their intensity and got the win to become regional champions. Juniors Dillion French, Deajay Klett, and Jake Wright all contributed on both ends of the court in the final minutes of the game, along with Johnson, Brennan, and Scott. The final score of the game was 54-49, Howell.

Howell’s next opponent was Mount Pleasant in the quarterfinals. At this point, Howell was in the final eight teams in Class A still competing for a state championship.

The game was played at Davison High School on March 18 at 7 p.m.. Both schools packed the stands and brought good sized student sections. With there being only eight teams left, Howell knew the game was going to be tough no matter what.

Howell lost in a heartbreaker, 39-69. The game high was 32 points, scored by Mount Pleasant’s 6-foot-7 Jaleel Hogan. French had a team high for the Highlanders with 15 points. Johnson had 11 points.

“Even though the season may not have ended the way we wanted it to, we still exceeded expectations and proved people wrong. We brought home a district and regional championship which feels great to do. In the beginning of the season, our goal was to make it to regional finals and we did more than that, so we’re all happy with the season. I think we set a baseline for what the program can become. We definitely put Howell on the basketball map,” says senior Tex Hastings.