Hartland Sets Sights on Unprecedented Heights

January 14, 2020

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

This season isn’t half over for the Hartland girls basketball team. And as impressive as they’ve performed over the first six weeks, there are lessons from the last few seasons they must continue to recall with expectations high this winter.

Take last week’s 50-40 win over Plymouth. The Eagles trailed early 14-1 – reinforcing coach Don Palmer’s message that every opponent is aiming to bring its best against a Hartland team with championship aspirations.

“I think a lot of times they’ve very focused and excited,” Palmer said of his team. “But … being teenagers, sometimes they’re complacent and take it for granted – and that’s just natural. That’s when we get upset, so we just kinda battle that a little bit.”

The hope is winning those prepares the Eagles for an unprecedented opportunity at the end of March.

The Hartland girls basketball team is the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for December, opening with four wins including victories over a pair of reigning MHSAA Finals champions – Division 4 Adrian Lenawee Christian (61-40) and Division 1 Saginaw Heritage (37-26) in the Eagles’ first two games. They closed the month with double-digit wins over Okemos and Bay City John Glenn, two more programs with high hopes this winter, and have since moved to 6-0 heading into Tuesday’s game against Howell.

Palmer has coached high school varsity basketball a combined 71 seasons, leading teams to 963 wins through Friday – the most in Michigan high school history. So when he says this season’s Hartland girls basketball team is the most talented he’s coached, that carries significant weight.

Palmer ranks seventh in MHSAA girls basketball history with a 616-311 record after leading Milford from 1977-2009 and then the Eagles since 2009-10. He quickly can recount the three athletes he sent on to Division I college athletics during those first three decades – before then offering context by describing how this Hartland team is led by University of Michigan recruit Whitney Sollom with at least five more players holding or on the verge of opportunities at the next level.

So talent isn’t a question. But will this also turn out to be Palmer’s best team?

Hartland has made the Class A/Division 1 Quarterfinals the last two seasons, finishing 22-4 a year ago. Sollom, a 6-foot-3 post, has been on varsity all four of her seasons, with the team a combined 70-12 during that time.

A likely Miss Basketball candidate, Sollom was averaging 11.4 points and 12 rebounds per game entering last Friday’s 44-point win over Salem. Leading the team in scoring is Nikki Dompierre at 12.6 ppg, while Madi Moyer adds 8.2 and 7.4 rebounds per game. All three are senior captains.

Junior Syd Caddell and sophomore Amanda Roach also are back as the team returned its entire starting lineup this winter.

The challenges will start locally. Undefeated Brighton and the one-loss Highlanders also both play in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association West. Howell also is in Hartland’s District.

Palmer said his team’s unselfishness and support of one another have impressed him most. But of course there’s a long way to go this season – and the team is hoping to build to a big finish as it seeks its first MHSAA Finals championship in this sport.

“We’re really in a great cycle,” Palmer said. “When I got the job at Hartland, I had been in the same league at Milford, and we were beating their varsity by 1-2 points. But the lower levels, we could just seeing it coming. My comment to my staff is we’ll have no excuses for not winning.

“I’m very happy and thrilled about the success, but I also knew we’d have players.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2019-20

November: Bridgman girls cross country - Report
Allegan boys tennis - Report
September: Ishpeming Westwood girls tennis - Report

PHOTOS: (Top) Hartland's Whitney Sollom puts up a shot during a December win over Okemos. (Middle) The Eagles celebrate with a team photo after the win over Bay City John Glenn. (Top photo courtesy of State Champs Sports Network; middle photo courtesy of the Hartland girls basketball program.)

Lansing Catholic Closes Season With Memorable Victory Close to Home

By Paul Costanzo
Special for MHSAA.com

March 18, 2023

EAST LANSING – The Lansing Catholic girls basketball team took a short drive to end a long wait.

Playing just three miles from their high school, the Cougars defeated Frankenmuth 43-29 Saturday at the Breslin Center to win the MHSAA Division 2 Final. It was the first Finals title for the program since 1995.

“It felt like homecourt advantage a little bit,” Lansing Catholic senior guard Hannah Pricco said. “Our bus trip wasn’t super long. It just kind of felt like we were coming to our own court.”

The Cougars treated it that way, dominating from the beginning of the matchup in their first Finals trip since that 1995 title. They scored the game’s first 11 points and never looked back.

The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke.“This is, as you can imagine, extremely surreal,” Lansing Catholic coach Kacee Reid said. “You’re going through literally every emotion on the bench, especially in a game like that. Frankenmuth is making such a great comeback, and we knew they were going to fight to the end. To go through the anger and sadness and happiness, and now it’s over and we’ve won it. It’s just been a rollercoaster of emotions, and I can’t describe the pride I have in these girls.”

It was the second meeting between the two teams, with Lansing Catholic taking the first 74-42 on Feb. 2. But Reid wasn’t going to let her team come in overconfident.

“They didn’t get here by accident,” Reid said. “They’re in the state championship because they’re playing their best ball of the year. We played them a month and a half ago. … We’re a totally different team, and we knew they were a totally different team. We knew they had been playing some really good basketball, and it didn’t matter at all what that first outcome was. We knew this was going to be a battle.”

Lansing Catholic (24-5) never trailed, and led by as many as 17 points in the third quarter. Leah Richards led the Cougars with 16 points and nine rebounds, while Anna Richards had 14 points. Gabby Halliwill added seven.

The Cougars were spurred by their defense throughout, holding Frankenmuth to 9 of 36 shooting from the field and forcing 13 turnovers.

“For us, defensively, we had to switch it up,” Reid said. “We had to keep switching up between man and zone. They were making adjustments and we couldn’t really sit in one thing for too long; they got comfortable. That’s a credit to their coaching staff always making adjustments. We had to continue to switch things up defensively and try to hopefully make their shooters second-guess their shot, or maybe not know where we were coming from.”

Frankenmuth (25-3) didn’t go away, despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game. 

That was helped by Lansing Catholic shooting 1 of 11 from the field in the third quarter, and going scoreless for the final 5:26 of the frame.

Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.The Eagles cut the lead to seven with 2:45 to play on a steal and layup from Clare Conzelmann, but never got closer.

“There was always belief no matter what detriment we got ourselves in,” Frankenmuth senior Lexi Boyke said. “I wouldn’t want to choose any other girls to play with and be in with at that point. I think we fought back and really prided ourselves on, ‘We can still do it.’ We didn’t stop fighting until the end.”

Lansing Catholic always figured Frankenmuth would make a run to get into the game, but was ready when it came.

“We knew they were going to make runs, we knew we weren’t going to hold them to seven points the whole game,” Anna Richards said. “We knew in the third quarter they were going to score, so we just had to stay composed, work the ball around on offense to get the good shots that we wanted.”

Boyke, who scored Frankenmuth’s first 10 points and was its only scorer well into the third quarter, finished with 16. She also reached 1,000 career points in the game, and had six rebounds, while Izzy Bernthal had seven.

Frankenmuth was making its first Finals appearance since winning the Class C title in 1996, one year after Lansing Catholic. 

“That’s a really good Lansing Catholic team, and you’ve seen that from their postseason run and beating an undefeated West Catholic team, and tonight finishing their season off with a state championship. So, congratulations to them,” Frankenmuth coach Joe Jacobs said. “I’m super proud of our kids. They didn’t quit tonight. They could have. … Fun experience, one that we want to treasure forever, but the motivation to come back again is here after tonight’s loss.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Lansing Catholic celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday night at Breslin Center. (Middle) The Cougars’ Anna Richards (10) attempts to get a shot up over Frankenmuth’s Lexi Boyke. (Below) Tessa Roe (12) works to get past Clare Conzelmann and to the basket.