Published February 11, 2013
Hilbers says grind of OAA Red is perfect prep for upcoming playoffs
By Mike Moore email@example.com Follow Mike on Twitter.
There might not be any way to actually prove it, but while speaking of his team last week, West Bloomfield High girls basketball coach Zach Hilbers joked that he may just have the best squad in the state with a 2-7 division record.
“I’d like to think that, anyway,” Hilbers said with a laugh.
A quick glance at the standings in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division shows the Lakers currently sitting in sixth-place, but that is very deceiving.
Many coaches have called the Red, one of, if not the, best division in the state.
The top two teams — Clarkston High (8-0) and Southfield-Lathrup (8-1) — will battle for the league title, and then turn around and be favorites to make deep runs in the Class A playoffs.
“We knew every night in this league would be a battle,” Hilbers said. “That’s exactly how it’s been.”
Hilbers is in his first season at the helm of the Lakers.
The head junior varsity coach the past five years took over for Steve Larkin this winter, stepping into the head coaching spot in what he called “somewhat of a seamless transition.”
“I had coached just about every girl on the roster at one point,” said Hilbers, a 2003 West Bloomfield grad. “I knew the girls, and they knew me. So it was a pretty good position to step into.”
The first obstacle Hilbers had to clear was the transfer of one of his top returning players, senior Sydni Davis, who moved into the Southfield-Lathrup district.
“It was tough, but one thing I will never forget is how she came to me and told me to my face,” Hilbers said. “She didn’t text or email me, and that meant a lot.”
Davis’ departure left Hilbers with only two varsity veterans on the roster.
“So, it’s kind of hard to gauge exactly what we expected,” he explained. “I guess I thought we’d have a few more wins by now, but the talent is certainly here. They’ve needed time to learn on the fly, and that’s not easy in this league.”
But it can pay off.
Last year, the Lakers were 1-12 in the Red and then rolled to a district title and a narrow loss in a Class A regional semifinal.
The hope is the same in 2013.
“We’re not going to see anything in districts that we haven’t seen already,” said Hilbers, whose Lakers were 5-8 overall.
“It’s very similar to last year. When we got to the playoffs, we knew we wouldn’t face anyone tougher than we had played all year in the regular season. We’re playing our hardest games right now, trying to play at the highest level possible. I may not call us a playoff favorite, but we feel like we can play with, and be competitive with, anyone.”
The Lakers are at the Class A Birmingham Marian district and open the postseason against Birmingham Seaholm at 5 p.m. Feb. 27 in a semifinal.
Birmingham Lahser, Bloomfield Hills Andover and Marian are in the other half of the bracket.
“We’ve gotten so much better as the season has moved on. That’s what you want as the playoffs approach,” Hilbers said. “Playing in this league has taught us what it takes to win big games against big teams. We like to think we’ll be ready for whatever the tournament has to offer, mainly because we’ve seen it already during the year.”