Prep Insider: Hartland girls reward Palmer

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Don Palmer will finally get the chance to experience what Mary Cicerone, William Winfield and Scott Woodhull have on countless occasions, coaching their teams during the final week of the girls basketball state tournament.

Palmer, 64, will be guiding his team into the quarterfinals for the first time in his 38 years of coaching girls basketball. He coached at Milford for 32 years before moving on to Hartland, where he is now in his sixth year.

Hartland earned its first regional title in school history Thursday, making 9 of 16 3-pointers in a 58-42 upset win over Kensington Lakes Activities Association tournament champion Salem, ending Salem's 20-game winning streak.

"It's very exciting," Palmer said. "The kids are bouncing off the walls. It was an unbelievable bus ride home. Eventually we'll have to calm down."

Hartland (18-6) will have to focus on its Class A quarterfinal meeting Tuesday with Saginaw Heritage (21-3) at Flint Carman-Ainsworth.

And yes, Cicerone, Winfield and Woodhull also will be guiding their respective teams this week, hoping to reach Breslin for the state finals this weekend in East Lansing.

Cicerone will be attempting to lead Birmingham Marian to consecutive Class A state championships for the first time in her 32-year coaching career. Marian advanced to three straight title games from 1996-98, leaving with the ultimate trophy in '96 and '98. Marian also won the title in 1988, '92 and last year.

Winfield also has won five Class A titles at Detroit King, but has not made it back to the title game since 2006 when the Crusaders won it all.

Woodhull took Waterford Kettering to the state finals when it was at Rose Arena in Mount Pleasant in 1999 and 2000, losing both times to Lansing Everett in semifinal games. And, Woodhull is still smarting from the 2012 quarterfinal loss to Grosse Pointe South in which South made 21 of 22 free throws in the 58-54 win.

Kettering (23-1) will face Marian — 23-1 and ranked No. 10 in the nation by USA Today — in a quarterfinal at St. Clair Shores Lake Shore.

King (23-1) will be playing Romulus (18-5) at Dearborn Fordson with the winner moving on to Breslin to face the Marian-Kettering winner in a Friday semifinal.

King played Marian in the Operation Friendship game last month and Marian escaped with a 50-49 win on Kara Holinski's 10-footer with 15 seconds left.

"I've seen them on tape and they are so sharp with the ball, poised, and you can see how they trust each other," said Woodhull of Marian, which returned four of five starters from a year ago, including Holinski, forward Brittany Gray and the Thomas sisters, 6-foot sophomore Sam and junior guard Bailey, who is already committed to West Virginia.

Back to Palmer

Palmer is now a retired teacher after having a busy career at Milford, where he was also the boys basketball coach for 29 years.

Palmer had some talented players while coaching Milford's girls, including Christie Schumacher, who once scored 55 points in a game before playing her freshman year at Michigan.

But Milford didn't go far during Schumacher's senior year in 1998, sent to the sidelines in the district tournament by Waterford Kettering, coached by Woodhull.

Palmer is excited about a young Hartland team which is led by senior co-captains Natalie Halonen and Ryann Laier. Sophomore Lexey Tobel is averaging a team-high 12 points and shooting 36 percent from 3-point range. Freshman Graysen Cockerham is averaging eight points and 5-4 sophomore Michelle Moraitis is an outstanding defender and ballhandler.

"We're a very athletic team that can pressure the ball and can handle the ball, but we're not big," said Palmer, noting that none of the starters is taller than the 5-10 Tobel. "We shot the ball really well in the win over Salem, making 9 of 16 3-pointers and 15 of 18 free throws.

"We have great chemistry. The kids just want to win and they don't care how. Our double-digit lead was cut to five in the regional final and Ryann came to Lexey during a timeout and said, 'You're our best player, you've got to shoot,' and that's says a lot about leadership."

Tobel and Cockerham each scored 17 in the regional-title game with Halonen adding 13.

Woodhull proud

Woodhull, in his 19th year as head coach at Kettering, had an unbeaten season going until a double-overtime loss to Salem in the KLAA championship game.

Kettering bounced back nicely to win the district, then the regional with a 45-29 win over Port Huron Northern Thursday after jumping out to an 18-3 first-quarter lead.

Woodhull knows Kettering won't get off to a 15-point lead in the opening quarter against Marian, but he doesn't want the defending state champs to get off to a great start either.

"We play fast and sometimes when you do that you do silly things, and we can't afford to turn the ball over against them," Woodhull said.

Woodhull has been pleased with the play of seniors Lauren Tewes, a 5-11 forward who will play at Gannon, and 5-11 guard Julia Kroll, who will play at Lawrence Tech. Both average 10 points a game.

Woodhull said 6-0 sophomore Lillia Schoof has taken her game to another level during the last 10 games, averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds, and could be a special player in the years ahead. She scored a team-high 11 in the regional title win.

First district titles

After slowing down Canton standout guard Greg Williams in a Class A district semifinal win Wednesday, Plymouth junior guard Brent Davis made two free throws with 26.6 seconds left for the difference in a 47-46 win over Northville Friday.

It was Plymouth's first district title in the school's 11-year history.

Plymouth actually had to battle back from a 46-42 deficit in the final minute with Josh Reynolds making a 3-pointer to pull his team within a point, then making a steal off the inbounds pass to get the ball to Davis to set up his free throws.

Davis scored 14 for Plymouth (16-6), which will play in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Monday versus Holly (21-2), which won its first district title in 33 years.

Boys regional-championship games will be held Wednesday with quarterfinals set for March 24 and the state finals March 26-28 at Breslin.

… A potential matchup to watch is Clarkston vs. Macomb Dakota in a regional final Wednesday at Troy, but first unbeaten Clarkston has to get by a 20-3 Auburn Hills Avondale team Monday while Dakota has to get by Utica Eisenhower (18-5). Dakota has won 20 consecutive games since losing its first two games to West Bloomfield and Clarkston.

Worth a stop

Every prep reporter is extremely busy this month, but it was well worth it for me to take 20 minutes out of my day last Thursday to get a glimpse of Escanaba senior Levi Wunder in the Division 2 state hockey semifinal at Compuware Arena.

After spending several hours as one of the 10-member voting panel for the boys basketball Associated Press All-State teams in East Lansing, I made a stop to watch the opening period of Escanaba's semifinal hockey game with Livonia Stevenson before heading to Whitmore Lake for the Class C regional final girls basketball game between Ypsilanti Arbor Prep and Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett.

Wunder didn't disappoint, getting off six shots on goal to help Escanaba take a 1-0 lead in an eventual 3-2 loss.

Wunder had a wrist shot that Cullen Barber made a good glove save on while Escanaba was short-handed, then was again stopped by Barber on his backhander while on the power play.

Wunder, who scored 135 goals in the last three years heading into the game, including 45 his senior season, was best when using his speed in open ice.

While playing 4-on-4, Wunder fired a shot wide from the right circle, then beat the defenders to the puck on the other side and beat Cullen with a wrist shot just over the shoulder for the 1-0 lead.

Barber was outstanding as well, keeping Stevenson in the game by stopping Hunter LaMarch in the opening minutes on a penalty shot.

By the numbers

15: Points scored by U-D Jesuit standout Cassius Winston during the fourth quarter Friday in a comeback, 64-60 district-title win over Southfield. He finished with 34 points

3: Points by which Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills defeated previously unbeaten East Kentwood, earning a Class A district title, 59-56, over the lone team which defeated defending Class A state champion Muskegon this season

5: Charges Walled Lake Central players took during the second half of its 40-39 Class A district final win over rival Walled Lake Western Friday night.

Top performer:

Austin Davis, Onsted

The 6-foot-10 junior had 30 points, 21 rebounds and four blocks to help Onsted outscore Tecumseh, 24-7, in the fourth quarter to win its first district title since 1983 Friday, 62-47


"The kids are bouncing off the walls. It was an unbelievable bus ride home. Eventually we'll have to calm down."

Don Palmer, Hartland coach, talking about his team's 58-42 Class A regional-title win over Salem. It was Hartland's first girls basketball regional title and Palmer's first in 38 years of coaching.