LAKE LINDEN - Lake Linden-Hubbell had one rally in them, but Houghton demanded two, and that second surge was what pushed the Gremlins to a 67-59 non-conference win Tuesday night.
Houghton led by 11 late in the first half, only for the Tyler Roose-led Lakes to overturn the deficit by the mid-third quarter. When Houghton pushed again with nine straight points early in the fourth, the Lakes offered no such response.
In a matchup between what may be the area's two fastest-playing teams, finding balance and control might have been a decisive factor.
Houghton’s Trent Keteri fights through a Lake Linden-Hubbell double team of Trevor Ongie, left, and Luke Monette in the first half of Tuesday’s game in Lake Linden.
"It's something we talked about after our Escanaba game. Sometimes the running game doesn't suit us as well and maybe if we can get to a halfcourt set and kind of control the tempo of the game that way, we might be a little more suited for that, and that tonight worked well," Houghton coach Jared Lawson said.
The LL-H gym's tight dimensions are perfect for making a fast game look positively supersonic, and after both squads scored 21 points in the first eight minutes, Houghton settled in first, scoring the first six points of the second and opening the quarter on a 13-2 run.
The Lakes closed to within six at halftime, then got back into the lead when Roose drilled back-to-back threes near the midway point of the third quarter as the tempo picked up again.
Houghton 21 15 15 16 - 67
LL-Hubbell 21 9 20 9 - 59
Houghton - Trent Keteri 13, Ben Collaer 9, Eero Niemela 10, Sam Bethancourt 18, Nate Gockenbach 16, Manjere Hungwe 1; FT: 11-22; Fouls: 14; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Keteri 3, Collaer 1.
Lake Linden-Hubbell - Trevor Ongie 5, Cole Beauchamp 3, Trent Ambuehl 4, Luke Monette 11, Cody Kunnari 3, Brett Poissant 14, Tyler Roose 17, Ryan Knoll 2; FT: 7-11; Fouls: 18; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Ongie 1, Roose 3.
Brett Poissant scored down low 52 seconds into the fourth to give the Lakes a 52-51 lead, but Houghton transitioned quickly, leading to a Nate Gockenbach bucket on the other end, and never trailed again.
Trent Keteri hit a three, Eero Niemela and Gockenbach scored and the Gremlins had a 9-0 run and a decisive lead that wouldn't shrink smaller than five the rest of the way.
"Our defense wasn't very good tonight. They did a nice job being patient and looking for the opening and holding the ball until they got the opening. They were able to get the ball to the rim better than any team did against us all year. They drove it in there," LL-H coach Jack Kumpula said.
Houghton had one of its best offensive efforts of the year, coming within a single Ben Collaer point of putting five players in double figures. Lawson had his team down for 47 percent field-goal shooting, one of their better figures of the season.
"Easy buckets and converting them. That makes a big difference instead of shooting 30 three-pointers a game," Lawson said.
Improving the offensive efficiency can be traced to increased production from Sam Bethancourt. The junior forward smashed his career high with 18 points (in addition to 12 rebounds, five offensive) Tuesday after scoring eight, including the game-tying tip-in Friday against Escanaba.
"He's always brought rebounding. He had 15 rebounds last game and he brought a double-double tonight but that's the big thing is that scoring. If he can provide that and give us a fourth option on the floor, that's really going to spread things out for our other guys, the shooters on the outside," Lawson said.
Those shooters had relatively modest nights: Gockenbach added 16 points, Keteri 13 and Niemela 10.
Houghton (12-5) hosts Westwood on Friday night.
For the Lakes (14-3), Roose finished with 17, while Brett Poissant had a gritty double-double of 14 points and 10 boards.
"I think we settled for the three too many times ... we need to get the ball inside and if we can't get it with Brett, we need to take it in there," Kumpula said.
LL-H hosts Calumet Friday, continuing to try and sharpen itself for the postseason.
"We've got to be able to work hard and be able to play defense for a length of time. We haven't had to do that very much this year," Kumpula said.