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.)
Foster Loyer’s four-season career at Clarkston from 2014-15 through 2017-18 certainly must be considered among the most accomplished in state history as he led the Wolves to back-to-back Class A championships in 2017 and 2018 and is listed in the record book 25 times.
Among Loyer’s most notable entries were 2,325 career points (12th most), 272 career 3-pointers (tied for ninth), records of 119 consecutive free throws and 634 career free throws, a .921 free-throw percentage as a junior (tied for fourth) and .900 career percentage (second), 589 career assists (sixth), 278 career steals (15th) and 102 games played (tied for sixth).
Loyer went on to play at Michigan State and then Davidson.
See below for more recent record book entries for boys basketball.
Four Onaway standouts were added for single-season and/or career records. Jager Mix, who graduated in 2022, was added for 92 steals last season and 225 over his four-season career. Kevin Pearson, a 2021 grad, was added for 81 steals as a senior and 247 over his career. Joe Sigsby, a 2016 grad, was added for 127 steals, and Jadin Mix was added for 124 in 2021-22. Their totals rank ninth and tied for 10th, respectively, on that all-time list. Jager Mix also was added for 967 career rebounds, and Onaway as a team was added for tying the record for most points in a quarter with 49 during the first quarter of a win over Fife Lake Forest Area on Feb. 3, 2022. Jager Mix is playing at Alpena Community College, and Jadin Mix is a senior this school year.
Uchenna Amene was added for 11 steals in a March 7, 2022, game against West Bloomfield Frankel Jewish Academy and for 97 steals total over 25 games. He was a sophomore at Southfield Christian that season and now is a senior at Detroit Catholic Central.
Owen Franklin graduated from Oscoda in 2021 as the school’s all-time leading scorer, and nearly 44 percent of those 1,477 points came on 3-pointers. Franklin made the state career 3-pointers list with 216 over four seasons. He’s playing baseball at Northwood.
Traverse City Christian sophomore Reece Broderick became one of the state’s most accomplished long-distance shooters in just his second year of high school this past winter, drilling 104 3-pointers – good for third-most for one season all-time – over 23 games. He connected on 42 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
A pair of Rudyard four-year varsity standouts entered the record book after their graduations in 2022. Tate Besteman made the career rebounds list with 762 over 89 games, and EJ Suggitt made the career 3-pointers list with 215 over the same 89 contests. Besteman played this past season for Mid Michigan College, and Suggitt is playing baseball at Spring Arbor.
Success from 3-point range played a significant role in Mesick finishing 21-1 in 2021-22, as the team made 195 of its 578 attempts – with game highs of 15 twice in wins over Baldwin and Pentwater.
Then-senior Tristan McFolley earned the first listing under single-game rebounds since 2013 with 30 in Detroit Cesar Chavez Academy’s game with Hope of Detroit Academy on Dec. 8, 2022.
Tawas found its groove from long range Jan. 10 against Oscoda, drilling 22 3-pointers in an 86-31 win. The total tied for fifth-most in one game.
Although Norway felt just short, 40-37, in its District loss to Crystal Falls Forest Park on March 8, Alex Ortman kept the Knights close scoring 20 of his team-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to make the single-quarter scoring list. He’s now a senior.
Kobe Clark has listings in two MHSAA record books, with three for boys basketball joining those he earned for football during his Schoolcraft career. He was added in hoops for 531 career assists and 290 career steals over 94 games from 2016-17 through 2019-20, and also for 82 steals as a senior. Tyler DeGroote also was added to the record book, for scoring 20 points during the first quarter against Delton Kellogg during Schoolcraft’s Jan. 11, 2022, victory. Clark began at Saginaw Valley State for football and now plays basketball and Kalamazoo Valley Community College, and DeGroote is continuing at Rockhurst (Mo.).
Past Detroit Cooley star Larry Fogle has added a seventh record book listing a half-century later. Fogle grabbed 33 rebounds on Jan. 18, 1972, during a win over Detroit Mackenzie. He went on to play at Louisiana and Canisius, and then briefly with the New York Knicks.
Trevon Gunter scored 42 points in Kalamazoo Central’s 84-56 win over Richland Gull Lake on Jan. 17, 2020, including 31 during the third quarter – second-most and just one shy of the record for points during one period. A senior that season, Gunter plays currently at Grand Valley State.
Mark Wittbrodt held the record for consecutive free throws at 70 until 2008, and that entry in the record book has been joined by several others from the Bay City Western star. He was added for his 192 3-pointers, 436 free throws, .842 free-throw percentage and 266 career steals over three seasons from 1991-93, as well as for six single-season accomplishments. He went on to play at Michigan Tech.
Ellsworth’s Jacob Jenuwine tied for 12th on the single-game 3-pointers list when he connected on 11 as part of scoring 39 points total in his team’s Feb. 14 win over Alanson. Jenuwine graduated this spring.
Bellevue senior Dawson Wing capped his three-season varsity career last winter with three entries in the record. He was added for 12 blocked shots in a 2021-22 game against Colon, 107 for the season last winter and 203 blocks over his career. Teammate Caleb Betz, a senior this fall, was added for 12 steals in a game against Athens.
Logan Mansfield capped his Morenci career in a big way last winter. The senior drilled 90 3-pointers over 24 games to earn his school’s first individual record book entry in boys hoops since the 1987-88 season, when John Craig had 132 blocked shots that would have been the second-most recorded at that time. They currently rank 13th.
New Haven earned a pair of record book entries during its March 10 win over Memphis. The Rockets bested their previous single-quarter school record with 41 points during the opening period, and they also made the statewide single-game 3-pointers list with 16.
Whitehall’s Camden Thompson, a junior this fall, earned his first record book entry last winter – and the first for his school in boys basketball. He grabbed 303 rebounds over 21 games.
Grand Rapids Wellspring Prep junior Zeekeal Jackson earned his school's first boys basketball record book entry this past season as well. He made the single-season steals list with 106, over 22 games, and just missed the single-game list with a high of 10.
Jonesville’s Brady Wright was among his team’s leading scorers during his three varsity seasons ending this past winter, but he also was a major contributor defensively. He made the records with a season-high 101 steals over 25 games as a senior, and made the career list with 232 steals over 61 games.
Sophomore Christopher McLavish Jr. made a memorable impact last season with a pair of record book entries. He made the single-quarter points list with 20 in a Feb. 21 game against Flint Powers Catholic, but even more memorable were his 97 3-pointers over 25 games for the season – tying him for 11th all-time on that list.
PHOTO Foster Loyer directs Clarkston's offense during its 2018 Class A Semifinal.