HOUGHTON - Calumet had enough to slow down Houghton's Plan A Monday, but the Gremlins rarely have just one path to victory.
With heavy defensive attention paid to leading scorer Elisa Jurmu in the post, Kelsie Richards stepped up with a career-high 24 points to lead all scorers in a 54-40 WestPAC win.
"Kelsie is certainly capable of many more nights like this. She's kind of been our 13- to 17-point player all season long, but with Elisa so heavily covered, I thought she filled the role, stepped up, sometimes jumped out behind the three-point line. She played a great game in a big game," Houghton coach Julie Filpus said of the senior wing, who averages 12.9 points per game.
Calumet’s Abby Bjorn (in blue)?and Houghton’s Michelle Laux dive for a loose ball in the corner in the first half of Monday’s game at Houghton High School. The Gremlins won 54-40. (DMG photo by Brandon Veale)
Calumet, having played man-to-man without success in the first meeting between the two in Calumet, went with a 2-3 zone and sunk one and sometimes two extra players to deny Jurmu, the area's leading scorer at 21.5 ppg, the ability to move on the basket, but Houghton moved the ball around well and led nearly wire-to-wire.
"I was very happy with how we moved the ball. We were stressing to our kids to get the ball to a certain point on the break in order to even have a chance to get it inside and there was one time in the first half where it went Elisa to Kelsie, collapse, kick out to Syd(ney Dillinger) for a three. Again in the second half, we moved the ball a good eight, nine passes with a couple of skips and found Michelle Laux and she had a good time to set up and I thought that was a very important three-pointer as well," Filpus said.
Calumet closed to within 26-22 at the half after pairs of free throws from Lexie Rowe and Janie Torola, but Houghton scored the first three baskets in the second half, two from Richards, to get the lead into double digits.
Calumet 10 12 4 14 - 40
Houghton 14 12 13 15 - 54
Calumet - Clara Loukus 7, Lexie Rowe 7, Tristan Baranowski 3, Terilynne Budreau 2, Abby Bjorn 3, Janie Torola 6, Ellen Twardzik 12; FT: 5-7; Fouls: 21; Fouled out: Twardzik; 3-point field goals: Rowe 1, Baranowski 1, Bjorn 1.
Houghton - Noelle Polakowski 3, Michelle Laux 5, Sydney Dillinger 8, Kelsie Richards 24, Elisa Jurmu 14; FT: 17-24; Fouls: 10; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Polakowski 1, Laux 1, Dillinger 1, Richards 4.
"She's a good shooter and we knew she is, but we had to take a chance on something and we were hoping if we got a good closeout that we could distract her enough that her shot would be off a little bit," Calumet coach Don Hill said.
Richards and Laux hit treys late in the frame and Houghton led 39-26 after three, holding the Copper Kings to just four points in the quarter.
With a double-digit edge, the Gremlins went into a holding pattern.
"Until they put a shot clock in high school, they're great at it. They spread the floor, they take care of the ball and they make their free throws, so if you go into the fourth quarter behind with Houghton, it's really, really, really tough to come back and that's where we found ourselves tonight when we had a horrible third quarter scoring," Hill said.
Things got interesting when Abby Bjorn and Tristan Baranowski made back-to-back threes to make it a 43-38 game with two minutes to go, but the rally was blocked by Houghton making 13-of-16 free-throw attempts.
"I wish we would have done a little more of that the whole game because when we attacked, some good things really started happening for us," Hill said.
Ellen Twardzik scored 12 points to lead the Copper Kings, who fall to 10-5 overall, 2-4 WestPAC. Calumet hosts West Iron County Thursday night.
Jurmu added 14 points, 10 of them free throws, for Houghton (16-2, 6-1 WestPAC), which can clinch a share of a 14th consecutive league title with a win at Hancock next Monday. Before then, the Gremlins host U.P. No. 1 Marquette Thursday.
"We have to make sure that our players stay on the floor. That's going to be the key for us, as Marquette has some size and strength out on the floor," Filpus said.