Tiny Howell uses urgency and grit to unseat Hartland in District Final
March 5, 2023
Howell’s Sophie Daugard stretches to 5-foot-6 on a good day.
She didn’t have a good shooting day during the Highlander’s 49-35 win in the Harland Class A District championship game against host Hartland. But the Highlanders still stand because pint-sized Daugard mustered every bit of might and energy she could while often guarding Hartland’s 6-foot-3 center Sarah Rekowski, who has been the difference maker in Hartland’s revenge tour through the tournament.
Daugard didn’t guard Rekowski. Instead she poked, harassed and bullied her while holding Rekowski to three points on 0-for-5 shooting. That was significant because since joining the lineup following an ankle injury that kept her out for three weeks, Hartland (14-11) had won four of five games with Rekowski back in the lineup.
“I’ve never boxed out more in a game than I did today,” Daugard said. “Usually when they are bigger they don’t like to be physical. At some point they have to come down with the ball and I am there.”
Molly Deurloo (21 points, eight rebounds and four steals) and freshman Gabby Piepho (11 points) paced Howell. However, Coach Tim Olszewski calls Daugard the heart and soul of this team because Howell only goes as far as its defense carries it.
The battle cry for Howell this year is urgency. The girls wear “urgency” on the back of their shirts and carry it over into games. Every moment and every step in the tournament comes with urgency and finality.
Howell (18-6) faces Lake Orion (19-5) in Tuesday’s Lake Orion regional. If Howell survives that game it gets a crack at defending Class A West Bloomfield (22-2) who has only lost one game in state and owns an 18-game winning streak.
“When we came out this season we were not playing with a sense of urgency,” said Howell Coach Tim Olszewski. “We were sitting back and allowing teams to play their game. We said we have to play with urgency from the tip. We cannot allow ourselves to get down eight or 10 points and then battle back. We decided to go with urgency.”
The girls had T-shirts made up with the word Urgency stamped on the back.
Howell rallied by avenging earlier losses to Hartland and Brighton and winning eight of 10 games. The defense improved and urgency became a real thing. It has carried on to regionals.
“We can get lackadaisical with the ball and make stupid mistakes,” Daugard said. “So, urgency means to play with a purpose of what you want to do.”
Howell has been in the district finals the last five years. But this game is Hartland’s plaything. It has won the last six district titles.
“Not this year,” Deurloo said with a laugh.
Later she said: “I’ve wanted this my whole life and we finally got it done.”