Howell can officially become Hoops Town USA with one more victory in the boys’ basketball districts Wednesday against Fenton.
A win would mean the boys are in the Linden District Finals and the girls would have advanced to at least the first round of regional play. They both follow a winning blue print of tough defense and outside shooting.
The boys took their first step in the Class A tournament Monday with an easy 69-38 molly wop of Linden. Now comes the real test as the Highlanders (15-7) face Fenton (16-6) in Wednesday’s district semifinals (7 pm) at Linden High School.
Howell is a team where defense is applauded on every trip down the court and where humble guard Logan Leppek (18 points) deflects praise whenever he can. Leppek leads by example during practice. He pushes teammates and they push him. His daily goal is for Howell to be a complete and consistent team.
“Some days we are locked in and we bring it for four quarters and have a great game,” Leppek said. “And there are games where we tend to kind of fall apart in some quarters. If we play all four quarters we can hang with anybody.”
The Highlanders started out the game nervous and jittery while shooting the ball. That happens when most of your roster has never played in a single elimination tournament of this magnitude. The talent took over and this game turned ugly quickly.
Leppek got much needed help from junior Jaylen Hicks (12 points, four assists and three steals) along with Andrew Weber (10 points, five assists)
A better start against Fenton is the best option. Fenton (10-0) was unbeaten in Flint Metro League Stripes Division play. Fenton guards Sam Dillard and Ja’Hion Bond are a joy to watch. So is Leppek of Howell.
Here is a little known fact about Leppek. He refereed youth basketball and baseball games. So, he knows how tough it is for officials in high school basketball. He was a part of a recent ceremony where Howell and Hartland honored the hard-working officials who referee their games.
“The officials are great,” Leppek said. “They come out here every week and they do their best. They are playing (hard) just as we are.”
The MHSAA is working hard to build up its officials’ base. Fans are often unruly and abusive toward officials following calls against their team.
“It’s just heat of the game,” Leppek said. “Nobody is trying to be mean or anything. It is also the fun of the game.”