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Howell attempts to step out from behind the shadows and become a girls basketball program that’s recognized

By: Tom Markowski, December 4, 2017, 3:15 pm

Howell – Coach Tim Olszewski and his Howell players can’t seem to escape anonymity.

Two seasons ago the Highlanders reached a Class A regional semifinal and last season Howell finished 18-4 losing all four games to its rival, and fellow Livingston County public school, Hartland.

“When I took over the girls program (2015) I said we have to play good teams to get noticed,” Olszewski said. “Last year I scheduled DeWitt, Haslett and St. Johns and we beat them all.”

This Rodney Dangerfield syndrome is not new to the athletic programs in Livingston County, a county wedged between Ingham and Oakland counties. There are four Class A high schools in the county and one Class B, and often they do go unnoticed. Another Livingston County high school, Charyl Stockwell Prep Academy, does sponsor a basketball team but they compete in Class D and is even more obscure.

 As it is in real estate where the saying, ‘location, location, location’, has become synonymous with the popular, and higher priced, homes/condominiums/apartments, most of the highly publicized programs in southeast Michigan lie within the tri-county (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne) area. The counties that border these counties, like Livingston, Washtenaw, St. Clair, Monroe and Lapeer, often don’t command the attention of the two Detroit dailies, the Free Press and the News.

The internet has removed some of those barriers but not all. Some athletes from Livingston County will be overlooked when some all-state teams are selected. The county isn’t close to downtown Detroit and other media outlets like the Lansing State Journal aren’t close, either. The Livingston Daily covers these schools regularly but its resources are limited, as are most media outlets in the state.

Olszewski understands the situation. He just wants his players to receive the notoriety he said they deserve.

“Being in Howell, we’re in a dead spot,” he said. “By playing good competition we’re hoping to get some recognition.”

This season Olszewski’s girls basketball team could be that team that fans and media alike can’t help but notice.

A lopsided victory over a talented Flint Carman-Ainsworth team in a preseason scrimmage opened a few eyes. Scrimmages sometimes don’t attract much attention. but it was a matchup Olszewski and his team anticipated greatly.

"We beat some good teams over the summer," Olszewski said. "But some people were telling me, just wait until you play Carman." 

Howell is 2-0 after defeating St. Johns, 40-30, on Nov. 28 and West Bloomfield, 51-28, last Friday.  The Highlanders host Ann Arbor Pioneer on Tuesday and will play at Ypsilanti Arbor Prep, a Class B finalist last season, on Friday. The Highlanders open their Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold Division season On Dec. 15 at home against Novi.

Alexis Miller is a 5-7 senior point guard and the team leader. Miller and Leah Weslock (6-0) are three-year starters. Miller, who signed with Wayne State, had 25 points and 10 steals against West Bloomfield. Weslock will attend Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburg next year.

Olszewski returns all five starters and his other top players include seniors Paige Johnson and Amanda Corsten, and sophomore Kaylee Wendel. Wendel is a 5-11 lefty who adept at posting up and taking her player off the dribble.

There’s depth. Two 6-footers are the top reserves and they are senior Dannah Janke and freshman Megan Tucker.

Livingston County athletic programs have fared well in sports like hockey and wrestling but in basketball, not so much. Howell is the only school in the county to reach a boys basketball final (Class B, 1927) and/or a girls basketball final (Class A, 1996).