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Hartland knocks off previously unbeaten, No. 10 Brighton, knotting up KLAA West race in the process

Hartland knocks off previously unbeaten, No. 10 Brighton, knotting up KLAA West race in the process
BY: MATTHEW B. MOWERY Feb 8, 11:40pm

HARTLAND — It’s not necessarily how many minutes you play, it’s what you do with the time you’re allotted.

Hartland junior point guard Nikki Dompierre missed nearly half of Friday’s rivalry game against No. 10-ranked Brighton, between foul trouble and a twisted ankle, but when she was in there, she was the difference-maker in a close game.

Her fourth-quarter return sparked an 11-0 run that sealed a 46-35 win for Hartland, as the Eagles handed Brighton its first loss on the season, tying up the race in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association’s West Division in the process.

“I told her tonight, I said ‘A lot of our kids are getting interviewed for points, assists and rebounds, but to me, you’re the MVP, because when you were playing, we were up 10 in that third quarter,’” Hartland coach Don Palmer said of Dompierre, who had 12 points. “‘And then when you got hurt, then it goes to two. You came back in, stabilized us, made some free throws, and we win. … To me, you’re the MVP, because every time you were in, you impacted.’”

He’s not wrong.

Dompierre had to sit down in the first quarter after picking up two early fouls. She came back and opened the second half with a three-point scoring opportunity, but twisted her ankle on the next possession, and spent the remainder of the third quarter on the bench, nursing the ankle.

“I was going up for a layup, and I did a spin move, and I came down on it wrong, and I just tweaked it,” she said. “I wasn’t in a rush (to get back in), because I was worried about re-injuring it, but I knew I had to get back in there for my team.”

She came back in the fourth quarter, and registered a three-point play with 5:29 left that gave the Eagles (13-2, 11-1 KLAA West) some separation again, after the Bulldogs (15-1, 11-1 KLAA West) had cut the lead down to just one point twice.

“I think Nikki being our leader, that (her being out) made us struggle a little bit, but when she came back in, we started playing great,” said freshman Amanda Roach, who had nine of her team-high 13 points in the first half. “And those and-ones, we needed that. It hyped us up, and hyped up the crowd.”

The vocal crowd — complete with a pep band — was a difference-maker in the contest, as well.

“I guess I would just say probably home court. I think you feel more comfortable at home, you’re a little bit quicker at home. It was a loud crowd, it was a tough place to play, so I think that was big,” Palmer said. “It was kind of an old-school environment, with a big crowd, and a pep band. I told the kids when we played at Brighton, because it was kind of the same way, I said ‘I didn’t want to lose that ballgame, but on the other hand, I don’t think you realize how rare this is, these days, where there’s a crowd, and there’s emotion, and people are into it.’ Because most of the girls games, let’s face it, it’s in front of 100 people, if you’re lucky.”

Brighton coach Paul Ash felt the same way.

“Win or lose, you enjoy an environment like this,” he said. “Three of the four stands are filled up, the band is loud, the fans are loud. That’s a great high school environment. I wish we could have more of those, to be honest.”

Hartland led 14-7 after one quarter, and 22-14 at the half, pushing the lead as high as 10 points early in the third quarter, 24-14, before the Bulldogs came scrambling back to cut it to just one, 26-25.

Part of that was the absence of Dompierre impacting the Hartland offense.

It was also partly the fact that the Bulldog offense figured out how to attack the various defenses — 1-3-1 zone, triangle-and-2 — that the Eagles had thrown at them in the first half. In the first meeting, the Eagles played man-to-man all night, and pressed buzzer-to-buzzer, but didn’t get enough results out of either approach to try it again.

“I thought we’d maybe save some energy that way, and then throw a couple of different things in, just to see if we could get them thinking a little bit,” Palmer said. “I think if you’re gonna do that stuff, you gotta do it at home. Jud Heathcote told me a long time ago that you’re a half-step quicker at home. I don’t know if it was that effective or not, but they hadn’t seen it.”

It took the better part of a quarter for the Bulldogs to adjust, but they were getting there in the second half.

“It’s funny, because we have a 1-3-1 that we work on, so we’ve seen it, but we just didn’t attack it. We were real tentative which, in hindsight, I’m not sure why,” Ash said. “Once we figured out to get it to the high post, to attack the middle of it, then the other stuff was available for us. Then they got out of it, after we started attacking it better.”

Whitney Sollom (eight points) hit a pair of free throws with 4.1 seconds left in the third quarter to give Hartland a 32-27 lead headed to the fourth, then — after a 3-pointer by Elaine Halonen and a steal and a layup by Bella Vogt cut it back to two again, at 34-32 — Dompierre’s three-point play with 5:29 left bumped it up to a 38-32 lead.

Sophie Dziekan (seven points) fouled out with 4:37 to go, and the Bulldogs wouldn’t score again until Vogt (eight points) hit two free throws with 24.2 seconds left.

“I’m a little disappointed, but I thought our kids battled back real well. We were a missed layup from taking the lead, and I think that changed the complexion of the game,” Ash said. “All of our goals are still there. While we can’t get it by ourselves, we can still get a share of the division, we can still get a league championship, a district. Everything’s still there for us.”

Neither coach was positive on the tiebreaker for seeding in the KLAA tournament, but Palmer thought that — after head-to-head results — it would go to point differential after the third quarter of the two head-to-head meetings. Brighton led by seven after three quarters the first time around, and would get the No. 1 seed in that scenario, as a result.

Before that comes into play, though, both teams have a pair of league contests next week:

Brighton hosts Salem on Tuesday, visits Northville on Friday, while Hartland plays at Novi on Tuesday, hosts Plymouth on Friday.