HANCOCK - When Ashlyn Kero decided to transfer from Hancock to Houghton, she knew she'd have to sit out the first half of the girls' basketball season under Michigan High School Athletic Association transfer rules.
Monday night, the wait was worth it for her first game back, against none other than her former team, in the gym she once called home.
"I've been counting down ever since I transferred, but when the day came I sure was nervous," said Kero, who scored three points but played a primary role as point guard and distributor for the Gremlins, who won handily, 63-29.
Houghton junior Ashlyn Kero prepares to inbound the ball during Monday night’s 63-29 Gremlin win over the Hancock Bulldogs, Kero’s former team before she transferred last year. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
"It was an experience, that's for sure. It felt different the whole game, and playing against your teammates gave me a new insight on the game."
Kero made the transition to open more opportunities for herself - "It was the right call at the right time," she said - and with coach Julie Filpus reloading her way to an 11-1 (4-1 WestPAC) record already and Hancock fighting to a 4-8 (0-4 WestPAC) record, she opted for the more developed program.
"Ashlyn is a very competitive, athletic basketball player. Once she gets comfortable we're very excited with what she can do," said Filpus, who has had Kero involved in practice from day one, but admitted there will be a bit of an adjustment period in game situations.
Houghton 9 18 23 13 - 63
Hancock 6 2 15 6 - 29
Houghton Elisa Jurmu 22, Alexa Johnson 12, Sydney Dillinger 7, Blaire Zenner 6, Noelle Polakowski 5, Natalie Datto 4, Kelsie Richards 4, Ashlyn Kero 3; FT: 4-7; Fouls: 11; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Johnson 4, Dillinger 1, Polakowski 1, Richards 1.
Hancock Taylor Pertile 6, Lily Williams 6, Molly Berg 5, Quincy Lorenzetti 3, Elle Rowe 3, Madisyn Wright 3, Taylor Mattson 3. FT: 2-6; Fouls: 10; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Williams 2, Berg 1, Lorenzetti 1, Rowe 1.
Houghton took one quarter to adjust Monday night. Hancock effectively used prolonged offensive possessions and a Lily Williams three-point bomb to stay within 9-6 after the first eight minutes, but the Gremlins scored 15 straight to start the second quarter.
"We had opportunities to be ahead after one. We missed some shots early and I think that kind of put us in a panic a little bit," Hancock coach Jack Johnson said. "Houghton's size and quickness obviously got to us. They picked up their intensity in the second quarter."
Elisa Jurmu scored nine of her game-high 22 points during the second stanza, many on transition lay-ups. When Hancock was able to get back into its halfcourt defense, Houghton slowed it down and knocked down its shots. Alexa Johnson, for example, hit a triple in each quarter for the Gremlins. Her 12 points made her the only player besides Jurmu in double figures.
"I thought in the second quarter we were able to get some fast-break layups, nice high percentage shots, and in between those, knock down a couple threes," Filpus said.
Only Taylor Pertile's bucket with 30 seconds left before halftime kept Hancock from a goose-egg quarter, but the 18-2 quarter made it 27-8 at the break, and the score was never closer than 17 the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs were able to manage a 15-point third quarter, though, including threes from Williams, Molly Berg and Quincy Lorenzetti.
"The problem is you can't score 15 and give up 23," Johnson said, and that's just what his team did as Houghton quickly upped the third-quarter lead to 35-10.
All three Hancock triples came during a two-minute span to make the score 38-19, but the Gremlins then capped off the quarter with a 12-4 run, and polished off the win with a 13-6 final stanza.
"Again we can say after the game we pulled out a lot more positives than negatives, but we were clearly unhappy with the amount of points we gave up in the third quarter, not paying attention to detail," said Filpus, whose team visits Kingsford Friday before returning home for an all-important WestPAC rematch against L'Anse next Monday.
Hancock, which was co-led by six points from Pertile and Williams, visits Lake Linden-Hubbell Thursday.