Asia Campbell, Farmington Hills Harrison, looks for an open teammate during girls varsity basketball action at Bloomfield Hills Andover Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (Special to The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
Basketball - Girls
GIRLS BASKETBALL: Harrison tops Andover in battle between two of the OAA White's best WITH VIDEO
Katie Conrad (center), Farmington Hills Harrison, wrestles the ball away from Bloomfield Hills Andover defenders Gina Perry (left) and Shannon Wilson during girls varsity basketball action at Andover Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (Special to The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
Shannon Wilson (center), Bloomfield Hills Andover, attempts to go up for a shot over Farmington Hills Harrison defender Kyla Roland during girls varsity basketball action at Andover Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (Special to The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
Erica Hill, Bloomfield Hills Andover, goes up for a shot during girls varsity basketball action against Farmington Hills Harrison at Andover Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013. (Special to The Oakland Press / LARRY McKEE)
BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Going into Tuesday night, it seemed that the Bloomfield Hills Andover-Farmington Hills Harrison girls basketball was a matchup to watch.
Two of the top-ranked teams in the OAA White facing off; one (Andover), with a lineup full of proven, experienced Seniors, and the other (Harrison), an exceptionally young squad with four underclassmen in the starting lineup, which uses size and athleticism to compensate for its inexperience.
Ability versus wisdom, size versus experience. It looked good on paper.
In reality, however, Tuesday night was all Harrison (18-1, 14-1 OAA White) and the Hawks played stifling defense and dominated the offensive boards to help them grab a 54-30 victory over the Barons (13-6, 9-6).
Harrison played a full court press defense nearly all game long, and it didn’t take long for the Barons to force some inadvisable passes which resulted in turnovers and fast-break buckets.
Harrison forced four turnovers within the first four minutes of the game and went on a 15-2 run to start things off, stunning the home crowd in Andover.
Harrison’s lone senior Marisson Cotton brought the energy early, snatching two of her four steals on the night within Andover’s first six possessions and converting both into points.
On January 8th, the first time these two teams met this season resulted one of the closest battles Harrison had all year with the Hawks narrowly edging Andover out 51-45, so Harrison coach Tim Micklash knew that the Barons were not a team to shake a stick at.
He directed his focus defensively towards making it tough for Andover star Shannon Wilson to get easy baskets.
“I’ll be honest, the first time around we didn’t have a whole lot of time to prepare (for Andover) and Andover being new to out league, I was not as familiar with them,” Micklash said. “(In tonight’s game) we were really focusing on (Wilson) being that she’s their primary ball-handler. We wanted to keep her to the sideline and not let her attack to the middle of the floor which she did the first time and it caused some problems for us.”
“She was able to kick to her shooters and today I think we did a much better job of forcing her to the sideline so I thought that was a big key for us.”
The Hawks did keep Wilson from distributing the ball as well as she did last meeting, although she still managed to put up 15 points, one of which being the 1,000th point of the junior’s career.
It came during a free-throw during the second quarter, Andover already down a significant amount, but fans paused briefly to take pictures of Wilson with a handful of basketball balloons in a well-deserved moment of congratulations of anyway.
Afterwards, it was back to reality, and Andover’s scoring assault continued to gain steam.
They outscored Andover 13-1 in the third quarter when freshmen Kristen Nelson kicked her game into high gear.
She cut through the Baron’s low-post defense like butter and picked up eight points in the paint in the third quarter alone to contribute to her total stat-line of 13 points, six rebounds, and three steals.
Nelson and Amber Stephens are the two freshmen on Harrison’s starting lineups, and it is thanks to their contributions to the team this year that they won the OAA White division, during a year when they weren’t predicted to finish much better than .500.
According to Nelson, her and Stephens have been playing together since they were 10, and the chemistry that comes with years of sharing the same uniform certainly shows when you see the two play together.
Andover’s coach Jeff Rubin chocked the game up to an inability on his teams part to execute offensively against Harrison’s pressure defense.
“We were prepared for the press I just felt we didn’t execute,” said Rubin. “ I mean to start the game, probably the first four or five possessions we actually beat it, but we missed layups and fumbled the ball out of bounds. You can’t put yourself in a set back situation against a team that’s that good, but we just made so many mistakes early, and then I feel like their pressure got to us after that.
Both team’s will soon turn their attention towards the playoffs, but as far as Tim Micklash is concerned, it’s still just important to take things one game at a time.
“Our goal’s just to keep getting better,” he said. “All season we’ve kind of just looked forward to the next day and not to look to far ahead. And that’s going to continue being out goal.