Houghton plays complete game, throttles Kingsford

Houghton’s Kara Pietila goes up for a shot against Kingsford’s Renee Roberts Friday in Houghton. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Julie Filpus is a state-champion coach who has led Houghton to 17 of the last 18 West-PAC titles. No one builds a successful program with that kind of resume without demanding a certain level of excellence from its players.

This season, it’s been a rarity when the Gremlins looked like a championship-caliber team. But on Friday against Kingsford, Filpus finally saw her team execute over the course of all four quarters in a 62-39 nonconference win.

Senior Kara Pietila led the Gremlins (8-4) with 19 points and senior Harlee Froberg added 16. Junior Cassie Rynnanen finished with 14 points.

“As a whole, offense and defense, it’s the most solid we looked,” she said.

What’s it look like when Houghton’s executing the way Filpus would like? It’s shooting 53 percent (26-49) while converting 38 percent from 3 (6-16) and limiting Kingsford to just 33 percent shooting (14-42).

“Houghton’s a really good defensive team,” Kingsford coach Mike Cross said. “They’re really good about taking away dribble penetration and they can contest everything. Even if we could get a shot from the outside, more than likely you’re going to have someone flying in your face.”

Kingsford shot just 2 of 11 in the first quarter as Houghton led 14-7 after the period. The Flivvers finished 6 of 22 in the first half, falling behind 29-18 after Houghton senior Kendra Monette swished a 3 at the halftime buzzer.

“A lot of (the defense) is ball pressure,” Filpus said. “Kendra Monette is the best we have at that. Madi (Dillinger) puts good pressure on the basketball, and when their guards can’t have time to make decisions, it disrupts their offense.”

Houghton lost Monette for the second half when she landed on a defender’s ankle during her 3 before the buzzer. With her out, Ryynanen started in her place and made the most of the opportunity, scoring eight of her 14 points in the third, including two 3s as Houghton took a 46-30 lead into the fourth.

“Even in the first half I thought Cassie was looking for her shot, and she shot the ball well,” Filpus said. “She stepped up and made some big plays on defense.

“If you want to have a successful season, you need kids off the bench that are going to do that.”

Leading Houghton’s efficient shooting night was Pietila, who converted 9 of 10 shots. She showcased her ability to score in a multitude of ways by knocking down a 3, driving to the basket for layups or with her patented turnaround shot on the block.

“She’s put the time in and we expect her to carry the offensive burden,” Filpus said.

Piteila scored six points in the fourth quarter and made it 60-39 as Kingsford couldn’t recover from its early shooting woes that lasted as the game wore on.

Sophomore Brooke Kriegl paced the Flivvers (6-5) with 15 points and junior Olivia Allen added 13.

“Especially at the beginning of the game, I thought we had some good looks,” Cross said. “There were layups that we need to capitalize on in a game like this. You need to make the easy ones, and then the game doesn’t get away from you.”

Next, Houghton heads to L’Anse on Monday.

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Kingsford 7 11 12 9 — 39

Houghton 14 15 17 16 — 62

Kingsford — Jordyn Kriegl 6, Brooke Kriegl 15, Cross 3, Allen 13, Roberts 2. F: 13; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 7-10; 3-point field goals: Jordyn Kriegl, Brooke Kriegl, Allen, Cross.

Houghton — Dillinger 2, Pietila 19, Ryynanen 14, Klein 6, Monette 5, Froberg 16. F: 12; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 4-4; 3-point field goals: Froberg 2, Ryynanen 2, Pietila, Monette.

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