Upstart Novi, Hartland head to girls basketball regionals

David Goricki
The Detroit News
Ellie Mackay of Novi plays defense during a district game against Plymouth.

Hartland and Novi have tossed aside past demons to earn the right to compete in this week’s girls basketball regionals at North Farmington.

Don Palmer has been coaching basketball for the last 40 years and feels this is his best chance of reaching the Breslin Center for a chance at a state title.

Palmer, 66, has guided Hartland to a 19-1 record with its lone loss coming to PSL champion Detroit King (55-42) back in December.

Hartland could have a possible state quarterfinal matchup with defending Class A state champion Warren Cousino, but first up is a 7 p.m. regional semifinal game Tuesday against Catholic League champion Farmington Hills Mercy.

Hartland defeated rival Howell, 46-24, Friday to win its district title.

“We lost to Howell four times last year so it was good to beat them to win the district title this time around,” Palmer said. “Last year, they had a big kid who controlled the inside and this year we have a big kid, Whitney Sollom, a 6-2 freshman who is athletic and impacts the game.”

Hartland has multiple weapons with senior guard Lexi Tobel (Detroit) averaging 12 points, making eight three-pointers in a game; Sollom, who has already received an offer from Minnesota, 10 points and seven rebounds; and Graysen Cockerham, nine points and six rebounds.

Palmer, who feels this year’s Hartland team is more talented than the quarterfinal team of two years ago, hopes to have Cockerham in the lineup against Mercy. She took a knee to the eye in the district final.

“I think this is going to be the best assembly of Hartland girls basketball team ever so you have one shot at this,” Palmer pointed out.

Novi coach Bill Kelp was thrilled to hold the district championship trophy Friday. It was Novi’s first district title in 10 years.

And, Novi defeated Northville, 35-32, in a district semifinal Wednesday, then defeated Canton for the title Friday, 47-40. Northville advanced to the state quarterfinals last year and had beaten Novi twice this season. Canton competed in the Class A state title game in 2014, losing to Birmingham Marian.

“It’s been an accomplishment to even get in the final game of that district because in the last 10 years the district has sent a team a long way in the state tournament,” noted Kelp. “We had a great team effort against Northville and it was great to beat a rival which had beaten us twice.

“In the win over Canton, we had Ellie (Mackay) pick up two early fouls and had to sit out the second quarter and we were able to maintain the lead which was big.”

Novi (17-6) is led by junior guard Ellie Mackay who averages 19 points and has shown the ability to get to the line.

Walled Lake Western advanced to the regional with a 43-24 district title win over Walled Lake Northern.

Hartland, Novi and Walled Lake Western are familiar with each other, playing in a scrimmage back in December. Now, they will be playing with their dream of a state title hanging in the balance.