HARTLAND — Hartland girls basketball coach Don Palmer chuckles now when he talks about facing the Hall sisters 30 years ago, when they were at Walled Lake Western and he was at Milford.
“I never could beat them,” he said, recalling facing Valerie, Dianne and Michelle Hall, all of them 6 feet tall or taller. “That in itself was a rarity, and they were so athletic. We played against the Halls when I had some of my best teams (at Milford). We never beat them, and they never cease to remind me of it.”
A little less than 20 years later, Val and Dianne and their families moved to Hartland about the time Palmer was taking over the Eagles program.
“Whitney was in the third or fourth grade,” Dianne Sollom recalled. “He was like, ‘Oh, the Hall girls! I could never beat you guys!’ And I said, ‘I have Whitney and another one coming in. They’ll be playing for you one day.’”
Whitney Sollom played four years for Palmer and is now a sophomore on the University of Michigan basketball team, a second-generation part of the program as Dianne also played for the Wolverines.
Whitney’s younger sister, Lauren, is a senior starter for the Eagles. One of her teammates is her cousin Sarah Rekowski, Val’s daughter.
“I played with my sister and now I’m playing with Sarah,” Lauren Sollom says. “I know my family is out there with me on the court going through the same thing I am. It’s very special to me.”
Lauren, who has signed to play at Saginaw Valley State, is a senior starter, while Sarah is a sophomore.
They are both from a college sports background. Lauren’s father, Ken, was a quarterback at Michigan and Sarah’s father, Stephen, was a defensive tackle for the Wolverines during the 1990s.
Dianne, who graduated from Western in 1989 and played basketball for Michigan State, met her husband when visiting Val at U-M.
“They grew up in it,” Dianne Sollom said. “If I’m not telling them, (Val) is telling them.”
Like their mothers, Lauren and Sarah are tall. Lauren is a 6-3 forward, while Sarah is a 6-2 post player for the Eagles.
Dianne says she’s 6 feet tall, “but I’m as tall as you want me to be,” she jokes. Val, a 1985 Western grad, was 6-4 in her playing days, as was their younger sister, Michelle.
Val played all four years at Michigan, and Dianne three years at Michigan State.
“With my mom being a post player and my being a post, it helps me to know what to do in certain situations, and she gives me pointers,” Sarah said. "She’s always helping me with my game.”
But both moms have their limits.
“We do watch film together,” Val says of her time with Sarah, “but not a lot. I let Coach Palmer handle all that. I know Dianne and Ken have that ongoing conversation and try to help when they can. But you have to back off. A lot of the time they don’t want to hear you at all. You have to give them some time, that 24 hours or whatever.”
Sarah enjoys the physical portion of the game and showed her potential in the season opener, when she had 13 points and eight rebounds. Lauren will get inside for rebounds, but plays mostly on the perimeter, hoisting up 3-pointers, something Sarah hasn’t done yet.
“Coach Palmer has not given her the pass yet,” Lauren pronounced as both giggled.
“Coach Palmer would probably lose his mind,” Sarah said, grinning.
“He definitely would,’ Lauren said, to more laughter.
Sarah played on the JV team as a freshman last season, although her winter was interrupted by 10-day COVID-19 quarantines on a couple of occasions.
“She’s a little behind in her development,” Palmer said of Sarah, “but she really is a talented kid. She’s a big kid who, when she gets a rebound, it really is a rebound. We’re working on her constantly on her footwork.”
Sarah has been alternating with 6-4 senior Kate Jacobs in the post.
“It’s been up and down,” she says, “but I’ve gotten a lot of experience. I’m getting a decent amount of playing time.”
Lauren, meanwhile, is a team captain.
“Lauren’s a team-first player,” Palmer said. “She’s having a great year for us, she’s our leading scorer, leading rebounder and she’s having an MVP kind of year.
“They’re good kids,” Palmer said of the cousins. “They want to win, and they don’t care about how they do it. That’s the thing about this team. They’re all unselfish kids; you know, if they get 15 one night and get two the next and the team won both, they’re fine.”
In addition, Lauren’s fraternal twin brother, Brad, plays for the Hartland boys basketball team and will suit up at Concordia University in Ann Arbor next year, where he will play football.
For now, Lauren and Sarah are enjoying their year of varsity basketball together.
“We talk a lot,” Lauren said. “Basketball brings us together. Practices are fun, and I drive her to school in the morning and home in the evening. That’s good cousin time, family time.”
Speaking of family time, when Dianne (for MSU) and Michelle (U-M) played against each other in college, it was not unheard of for one sister to let the other have the occasional free lane to the basket, or for one to congratulate the other on a good shot while both were on the floor.
Once, castigated for complimenting her sister, Dianne said to her coach, “But she’s my sister!”
Now, Dianne and Val sit in the stands at Hartland games, cheering their daughters on.
“I enjoy watching her play,” Val said. “We’ve been watching Whitney and Lauren since they were young, and Sarah’s coming along. It’s fun to watch the light bulb come on and everything starts clicking. It’s really great when it all comes together for them.”
“I was on the court my entire life,” Dianne said. “I want to sit in the stands and watch my daughter and son. My husband is in the same boat. We’ve done it. We don’t have to shine.”
Hartland has been one of the top teams in the state this season, and the Eagles are looking toward a long run in the MHSAA Tournament, not unlike last year, when they reached the Division 1 quarterfinals.
To do so, the Eagles (14-1) are combining talent with togetherness, with nine seniors, including Lauren Sollom, looking out for themselves and a big sophomore in Sarah Rekowski who could play a key role down the stretch.
“She’s a very hard worker in practice and always has a smile on her face, even when Palmer is yelling at her,” said Lauren, joining her cousin with more giggles in a postgame interview, another shared moment in a season that already has produced memories for a lifetime and a special bond within a bond.
PHOTOS (Top) Dianne Sollom, far left, and Val Rekowski, far right, stand with daughters Lauren Sollom (25) and Sarah Rekowski (34) after a Hartland game. (Middle) Dianne Sollom, second-from-right, takes the opening jump against Canton while playing for Walled Lake Western. (Below) Val Hall (52) gets her hand on a shot while also starring for Walled Lake Western in this Novi-Walled Lake News clipping. (Top photo by Tim Robinson, middle and bottom photos provided by the Sollom and Rekowski families.)
Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.
The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.
The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.
Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.
Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.
Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:
Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).
Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.
Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.
Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.
Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.
Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.
Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.
Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.
Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.
Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.
Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).
Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.
Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.
Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.