Zenner steps up, Houghton wins 3rd consecutive district
HOUGHTON — If the Houghton High girls basketball team was going to show any nerves in Friday’s Class B district tourney championship game, it probably would have come very late in the third quarter.
Nursing a slim 39-38 lead over an underdog Gladstone team, the Gremlins then turned the ball over to senior center Sloane Zenner.
All Zenner did was score her team’s next nine points as the battle-tested Orange and Black zoomed to an insurmountable 47-38 lead just three minutes into the fourth quarter in an eventual 60-49 victory.
“Big part of the game right there,” HHS coach Julie Filpus said afterward. “Sloane (Zenner) is that kind of player, though. She makes big plays. When she’s scoring, the opportunities for everyone else come easier.”
For her part, Zenner said winning district crowns never gets old.
“It’s pretty exciting to win the districts,” she said after her team’s third straight district title in a row. “Gladstone played tough, but I think the important thing was to watch our turnovers and lock down on our defense. I think, for the most part, we did that pretty well.”
Making their free throws was something else the winners excelled at.
For the game, they converted 27 of 33 tries at the charity line –including 16 of 20 in the final quarter when the Braves were trying desperately to get the ball back.
Filpus said her team has done a “pretty nice job on free throws.”
“As a team, we’re shooting just under 70 percent this season,” the Houghton skipper said. “That will win most games.”
Gladstone coach Eric Lundin said the Gremlins can beat you in many ways.
“Sure, they have Sloane Zenner, who’s a great player,” Lundin said. “But Tawna Ryynanen, Harlee Froberg and Maddie Dillinger are all great players. And they’re coached so well and play disciplined, it’s tough to beat them.”
The Braves, a modest 7-14 coming in, did their best to send a big Gremlins crowd unhappy.
The Delta County team seized a 15-13 lead after one quarter behind three hoops by Taylor Hunter.
HHS grabbed a 28-22 margin at the half as the versatile Zenner notched eight points. The Gremlins also took control of the boards in the frame.
The scrappy Braves managed a 16-11 advantage in the third quarter to make it razor thin at 39-38.
That was when the 6-foot Zenner, began her personal crusade to send her team on to the next round.
Dillinger helped put the icing on the cake by sinking eight straight free throws in the fourth quarter.
The eighth member of her family to win a district championship at Houghton, Dillinger said the win was a sweet one.
“It’s always nice to win the game that sends you to the regionals,” the junior guard said. “We’ve been fortunate here at Houghton to do that pretty often.”
In addition to Zenner’s game-high 24 points, the Gremlins received 10 points from Kara Pietila. Dillinger contributed eight more, while Froberg, who collected a game-high 11 rebounds, and Ryynanen combined for 15 points.
“I thought Tawna (Ryynanen) did a good job of running the offense,” Filpus said. “And her outside shooting can open up things for everyone else.”
Hunter and Leigha Woelffer paced the Braves with 14 markers apiece. The latter also had seven rebounds.
Lundin said his undersized team has played hard all season.
“I told the girls afterward that you don’t mind losing when you lose to the better team,” he noted. “And Houghton was the better team. But I’m proud of the effort this team made.”
The Gremlins, now 21-1 on the year, will play next on Tuesday in Manistique against Kalkaska.
Gladstone 15 7 16 11 – 49
Houghton 13 15 11 21 – 60
GLADSTONE– Polley 6, Hartwick 5, Ahlgren 4, Zeise 2, Hunter 14, Woelffer 14, Martinez 4. FT: 11-14; Rebounds: 17 (Woelffer 7); Fouls: 19; Fouled out: Ahlgren; 3-point FG: Polley 2, Woelffer 2.
HOUGHTON — Dillinger 8, Ryynanen 6, Zenner 24, C. Monette 1, K. Monette 2, Pietila 10, Froberg 7, Magyar 2. FT: 27-33; Rebounds: 31 (Froberg 11); Fouls: 11; Fouled out: None; 3-point FG: Ryynanen 1, Zenner 1, Froberg 1.