HOUGHTON - The Hancock girls' basketball team gave Houghton everything it could handle Monday night.
But when crunch time came along, the group of upperclassmen in Gremlin jerseys made the plays necessary to separate from their across-the-bridge rivals while the Bulldog sophomores and freshman will have to be content with moral victories this time around.
Tied 36-36 with one minute left in the third quarter, Houghton ripped off a 16-2 run to eventually come away with a 53-42 victory.
Houghton’s Sydney Dillinger attacks the basket against the defense of Hancock’s Molly Berg in the first half of Monday’s game. Maija Sebbas comes up on Dillinger from behind. The Gremlins won 53-42. (DMG photo by Michael Bleach)
"(Rivalry games) do tend to go that way," Houghton coach Julie Filpus said. "We were clearly frustrated with some of the things that we did tonight and they certainly need to be corrected.
"The expectations for us are to have the effort for and focus for 32 minutes, not nine minutes," Filpus added.
The Gremlins were led with 17 points from junior Sydney Dillinger with the senior duo of Elisa Jurmu and Kelsie Richards chipping in 15 each.
For Hancock, freshman Maija Sebbas topped all scorers with 19 points while sophomore Taylor Pertile finished with 12.
The difference in age between the top shooters may have been the difference in the game as Dillinger found room for three layups in the decisive run and Richards knocked down three free throws with an offensive putback.
"We did a lot of things really well," Hancock coach Jack Johnson said. "But the bottom line to beat an excellent basketball team we need to execute down the stretch and we didn't do that. We had 21 team turnovers and missed six free throws in the fourth quarter."
Houghton looked as well-oiled as possible to start the contest Monday night, jumping out to a 19-6 first-quarter lead with its typical blend of defensive pressure and transition buckets.
The Bulldogs responded tremendously in the second, however, with Sebbas knocking down a pair of three-pointers and 10 total points to cut the lead to 29-25 entering intermission. Hancock ended the period on a 13-2 run, including a Sebbas three with two seconds remaining, to claw its way back in the game.
"There certainly was some complacency," Filpus said. "We missed a few shots and kind of got a little fogged in our faces.
"To Hancock's credit, they hit a couple threes and the momentum kind of shifted," Filpus added.
With her 5-foor-10 height (and longer wingspan) Dillinger's combination of quickness and length proved to be a recipe Hancock was ill-equipped to deal with.
Dillinger converted on three offensive-rebound putbacks in the game, took two trips to the foul line and found the rest of her points in aggressive rim-runs.
"One thing we have been on her from day one is to be aggressive on offense," Filpus said. "Without her input tonight we would have been in a lot of trouble."
Houghton will travel to Hancock for the Gremlins' last regular season game Feb. 17.
"What we have to do is build upon this game," Johnson said. "They busted their butt and played hard. Now we need to add that next step and execute."