3rd-Year Standouts Have Howell Rolling

January 9, 2018

By Tim Robinson
Special for Second Half

For the best players on Howell’s boys and girls basketball teams, the third year has been the charm.

Those players, Josh Palo and Lexie Miller, have combined talent and experience with confidence while leading their teams to fast starts this winter.

Palo is averaging 26 points per game for the boys, who are 5-1, while Miller is averaging 25 for the girls, who are 7-1.

Both are in their third full season on the varsity; Palo is a junior while Miller is a senior.

They also have this in common: Both would much rather talk about their team’s accomplishments.

“It’s all about the team,” said Miller, who has signed with Wayne State University. “I think we have improvements to make, but we’ve been watching film and can do better. I think we’ll get there if we keep working hard.”

Miller is part of a Highlanders team which features four seniors, including Miller, who have spent three full seasons on the varsity. They have been playing together for years.

Miller, who is 5-foot-6, also qualified for the MHSAA Division 1 cross country meet as a freshman before turning her attention to basketball fulltime. Her speed allows her to blow by defenders. She’s not afraid to put up 3s, nor is she afraid to drive to the basket.

But Howell girls coach Tim Olszewski said it’s her competitiveness and drive that help make her first among equals, and confidence that has made her a leader.

“(Two years ago) we had Erin Honkala, who would call team meetings and say, ‘Listen, this is exactly how things are going to go,’” Olszewski said. “Last year, as juniors, none of them wanted to grab the reins and do that. This year, we’ve got great senior leadership, with Lexie at the forefront of that. She will say something, and because of the way she conducts herself out on the court, you have to listen.”

Palo, a 6-2 junior, plays both guard positions for the Highlanders and does whatever is needed on defense.

“He’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades,” Howell boys coach Nick Simon says. “We do a lot of switching (on defense) and a lot of different things and he’ll play where needed on defense. He’s guarded the other team’s point guard in a couple of games, and he’s guarded the other team’s center a few times. He’s very knowledgeable about the game, and he understands how to play it. That allows him to guard guys down low and out on the perimeter.”

Palo scored 33 points in an overtime win at Linden in the Highlanders’ season opener, displaying the first results of a busy summer.

“I put in a lot of work over the summer,” he said. “I was always in the gym. Kip (teammate Kip French) has a little gym at his house with a shooting machine, and I was out there shooting every day this summer. That’s why I think I’m doing so much better this year. I have more confidence this year, knowing what I can do, when I can score and when I can get my looks.”

Simon led Howell’s boys to a Class A Quarterfinals four seasons ago. That run included the first time Howell had won a District title in nearly 20 years. The Highlanders have gotten to the Regionals the last two seasons, and Palo says he thinks his team can go farther.

“I really do,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of guys here, and we’re all bought in on what we’ve got to do. We’re going hard in practice every day, trying to get better. Everyone gets their role pretty well, and we always go into games confident. We never think we’re the underdog. We can always pull one out if we need to.”

Howell plays in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association, where boys and girls play at alternate sites on the same night.

As a result, neither Palo nor Miller has seen the other play often – but the rare impressions are lasting ones.

“Josh is really shifty,” Miller said, emphasizing the last word as a compliment. “His moves are really good. He finishes really well. I’m really impressed, honestly.”

“She’s real fast,” Palo said. “She can dribble pretty well. She could spot up and hit some 3s for us.”

Both will have opportunities to see the other play in the postseason. But as of now, they have their own dreams and team goals for which they are striving.

“It’s interesting to have a guy who’s had a breakout year and get him back for another year,” Simon said of Palo. “Traditionally, you see guys peak as seniors, and that’s when they come out of their shell. For a guy who’s in his third year on varsity (as a junior), I think that’s a huge advantage. You’re able to get him out of that shell a little earlier.”

Miller, while being the leading scorer on the Howell girls team, is far from the only offensive threat. Opponents who key on Miller learn that, to their dismay. By the time they adjust, often, Miller makes them pay at a key moment.

“She lives for the big moment,” Olszewski says. “She wants the ball in her hands. She’s definitely an ice-in-the-veins kind of kid, and I would have no problem giving her the ball in any situation at the end of a game.”

Palo and Miller both look to stand out in a team concept, and that drive could well determine the final destination for both teams this winter.

PHOTOS: (Left) Howell’s Josh Palo pushes the ball upcourt during a practice this winter. (Right) Lexie Miller works on her shooting; she’s averaging 25 points per game. (Photos by Tim Robinson.)

Breslin Bound: 2022-23 Girls Report Week 10

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

February 6, 2023

Championship time is quickly approaching this girls basketball season.

MI Student Aid

We’re still three weeks out from the start of District play. But league contenders are clashing all over the state, with a handful of conferences finishing up their schedules this week and several favorites facing off soon with titles on the line. We make mention of a number of those below.

“Breslin Bound” is powered by MI Student Aid and based on results and schedules posted for each school at MHSAA.com.

Week in Review

The countdown of last week’s five most intriguing results:

1. West Bloomfield 59, Detroit Edison 49 Last season, West Bloomfield (15-2) became the first in-state team to defeat Edison (12-3) since 2018 – and the Lakers have become the only one to do so again this winter.

2. Maple City Glen Lake 51, Traverse City St. Francis 45 The Lakers (13-2) are up to No. 2 in Division 4 MPR, while St. Francis (12-2) sits No. 4 in Division 3.

3. Holt 55, DeWitt 53 The Rams (14-2) sit alone atop the Capital Area Activities Conference Blue after sending the Panthers (13-2) into second in a matchup of top Division 1 teams statewide.

4. Hancock 50, Calumet 47 The Bulldogs (13-1) maintained their one-game lead in the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference West with their second win this season over third-place Calumet (11-3). Both are among the top seven statewide in Division 3 MPR.

5. Detroit Edison 44, Farmington Hills Mercy 42 The Pioneers bounced back from the West Bloomfield loss with a pair of close wins, this one over Mercy (14-2) followed by a one-pointer over Grand Rapids Catholic Central on Saturday.

Watch List

With an eye toward March, here are two teams in each division making sparks:

DIVISION 1

Muskegon Reeths-Puffer (11-5) After a 2-4 start with those losses to top Division 1 and 2 teams statewide, Reeths-Puffer is 9-3 and tied for first in the Ottawa-Kent Conference Green with Muskegon after edging the Big Reds 56-52 on Friday. That avenged a 14-point loss to Muskegon on Jan. 6, and the Rockets have since gone on an eight-game winning streak. They also opened last week with a 42-39 victory over 11-win Ludington.

Maddie Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake contests a shot by Maggie Napont of Traverse City St. Francis during the Lakers' 51-45 win over the Gladiators last week.

Wayne Memorial (13-4) The Zebras further solidified their standing atop the Kensington Lakes Activities Association East standings with last week’s 75-57 win over second-place Belleville. That followed up a 44-41 win over the Tigers on Jan. 6, and total Wayne has won 12 straight since a 1-3 start that included two-point losses to Division 1 contenders Detroit Renaissance and Hudsonville and a third defeat to Illinois power Chicago Whitney Young.

DIVISION 2

Goodrich (14-1) The Martians are locked in another battle atop the Flint Metro League Stars with Lake Fenton and trail the Blue Devils by a game after a 50-44 loss Jan. 20. That’s Goodrich’s only defeat, and they’ll attempt to avenge it in the league finale Feb. 17. In the meantime, the Martians can continue their statewide push upward with 13-win Flushing coming up Wednesday and 15-win Ovid-Elsie next week as well.

Redford Westfield Prep (11-6) The Warriors take on many of the state’s best, evidenced by their No. 8 MPR despite six losses. Westfield has won seven of its last eight games, the lone defeat during that streak 55-53 to still-undefeated Flint Carman-Ainsworth on Jan. 16 – and with perhaps its most notable instate win of the season 46-45 in double overtime Jan. 12 over reigning Division 3 champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.

DIVISION 3

McBain (13-4) The Highland Conference race could go down to the finish, especially after McBain avenged its earlier 17-point loss to second-place Evart with a 51-35 win last week. McBain also has a six-point loss to league leader Lake City from Jan. 20, but can avenge that in the regular-season finale Feb. 23. The Ramblers additionally have a pair of victories over 12-win Beal City and a solid early loss to still-undefeated Division 2 Escanaba.

Ovid-Elsie (15-2) The Marauders haven’t slowed down a bit after last season’s 21-2 finish with league and District titles, the latter in Division 2. This season in Division 3, Ovid-Elsie is up to No. 6 in MPR with a 14-game winning streak since suffering its lone losses early to Pewamo-Westphalia (10-5) and Dansville (15-1). The Marauders handed Mackinaw City its first defeat Saturday, 59-55 on a neutral court, and also has a victory over 14-win Ithaca plus a two-game lead in the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference.

DIVISION 4

Fowler (11-6) Coming off back-to-back Division 4 championships, Fowler put together a schedule featuring solid-to-strong teams from Divisions 1-4 and sit No. 3 in Division 4 MPR. The losses have come to Midland Dow, Haslett, Lansing Catholic, Kent City and league rivals Dansville and Portland St. Patrick, and the Eagles avenged the Shamrocks defeat 51-44 last week. Fowler will need help to catch Dansville in the Central Michigan Athletic Conference, down two games from the league leader, but will try to get one back from the Aggies on Feb. 14.

Norway (16-1) The Knights are leading the large-school division of the Skyline Central Conference with the likely deciding matchup coming at Bark River-Harris next week. Norway has lost only to Niagara (Wis.), by five two weeks ago, and handed Carney-Nadeau (13-2) one of its losses among other strong work – and after ending last season’s 11-10 run with a 15-point District loss to the Wolves.

Can’t-Miss Contests

Be on the lookout for results of these games coming up: 

Tuesday – Coldwater (15-1) at Jackson Northwest (15-1) – The Mounties lead Coldwater by a win in the Interstate 8 Athletic Conference thanks to a 50-46 win in their first meeting Jan. 10.

Tuesday – Utica Ford (14-1) at Grosse Pointe North (13-2) – North has clinched a share of the Macomb Area Conference Red title heading into tonight’s league finale, while Ford won by a large margin in the MAC White.

Thursday – Houghton (13-1) at Hancock (13-1) – As noted above, Hancock leads the West-PAC West by a game – but will face second-place Houghton twice over the next two weeks.

Friday – Standish-Sterling (15-1) at Hemlock (13-3) – Hemlock owns the lead in the Tri-Valley Conference West 10-1 thanks to a 62-31 doubling up in the first meeting Jan. 6. But that remains the Panthers’ lone loss, and they’ve since handed TVC 10-2 co-leader Saginaw Valley Lutheran one of its two defeats.

Friday – Saline (15-2) at Temperance Bedford (16-1) – Saline is first and Bedford second in the Southeastern Conference Red thanks to Saline’s 41-22 win in their first meeting Jan. 27.

MHSAA.com's weekly “Breslin Bound” previews and reviews are powered by MI Student Aid, a part of the Office of Postsecondary Financial Planning located within the Michigan Department of Treasury. MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

PHOTOS (Top) A trio of Fowler defenders surround a Bath player driving to the basket during a 49-27 win earlier this season; they meet again Thursday. (Middle) Maddie Bradford of Maple City Glen Lake contests a shot by Maggie Napont of Traverse City St. Francis during the Lakers' 51-45 win over the Gladiators last week. (Top photo by Click by Christine McCallister. Middle photo by Rick Sack/TC Rick Photo.)