Travis Ojala’s defense, 19 points lead Calumet past Houghton 57-48

Calumet’s Travis Ojala defends as Houghton’s Eliott Majlessi shoots a layup Thursday in Houghton. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Out of the Ojala twins, it’s Matt who’s known as the perennial scorer and 3-point threat, resulting in extra attention from every defense Calumet faces, while Travis is one of the premier on-ball defenders in the area. 

But on Thursday, Travis showcased his ability to go off on the offensive end as well, scoring 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range to send Calumet past rival Houghton, 57-48, in a West-PAC matchup in Houghton.

Senior Cooper Twardzik added 11 points and seven rebounds and junior Matt Ojala finished with 10 points and six assists. 

“Travis made us pay,” Houghton coach Jared Lawson said. “When he starts hitting, you’re going to start spreading out your defense and you’re going to leave (Brandon) Antilla open, you might even leave Matt open for a few 3s. It goes all around, and Twardzik and (Eli) McParlan can get some looks inside.”

With so much of Houghton’s 2-3 zone focused on shading toward Matt, openings were created for Calumet to work its high-low offense or allow Travis to knock down 3s. Travis connected with two of his 3s during the second quarter, and Matt added one for a 9-0 Calumet run for a 30-21 advantage midway through the second quarter. 

“Trav’s been solid for a few weeks now,” Calumet coach Mike Ojala said. “He’s getting some confidence with his shot. 

“But the biggest thing is his effort defensively in the last few nights against some big-time offensive players. That’s really his game for us.”

While defending the other team’s leading scorer this week, Travis held his guy to 12 percent shooting (2-16) on Tuesday in a win over Jeffers and 22 percent (4-18) on Thursday, while making his case as the best perimeter defender in the area. 

As a team, Calumet’s man-to-man defense once again limited the other team’s high-percentage looks. Houghton shot 14 of 41 (34 percent) and had to settle for shots from the perimeter. Out of Houghton’s 14 made baskets, nine came from 3-point range, where the Gremlins (5-6, 3-3) converted 9 of 25 attempts (36 percent). 

“They’re a very physical team,” Lawson said. “You know that coming into a Calumet game, but with that said, I thought our guys were doing a great job of posting up. At the end of the game, I told them we just didn’t get enough post touches.

“It’s hard to get high school kids to understand that there is no shot clock. So if that post touch isn’t there, swing the ball and let’s go again on the other side. That’s going to be something I’ll emphasize for the rest of the year. Inside-out, that’s how we’re going to play.”

Houghton started its night by bombing 3s, and it worked as the team made 5 of 7 attempts for a 17-14 lead after the first quarter. But from there, the Gremlins shot just 4 of 18 from 3-point range. 

Sophomore Brad Sirard led Houghton with 18 points. 

“I thought we were closing out, but to their credit, they hit shots,” Mike Ojala said. “Just guards stopping penetration and big guys not allowing easy post touches is big, and do the best we can on the perimeter shooters.”

An 11-4 run by Houghton, capped by two free throws from senior Elliot Majlessi cut Calumet’s lead to 34-32 with 2:52 left in the third. But as been Houghton’s issue all season, the Gremlins allowed the Copper Kings (8-3, 3-0 West-PAC) to answer with a 13-2 run of their own for a 47-34 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter. 

Antilla drilled a 3 as the third-quarter buzzer sounded and Twardzik scored in the paint to cap the run. 

“That has been our Achilles heel all year,” Lawson said of giving up the big run. “We’ve had these little issues creep up and they start compounding as the game goes on. 

“We had a turnover, a bad foul and then we take a bad shot. Within 30 seconds, they had six points in a row and it was 40-32. We’re a team that needs to keep the point difference under 10, but you could feel the air got out of us a little bit.”

Calumet finished 21 of 51 from the field (41 percent). Houghton held a 32-28 edge on the boards. 

Next, Calumet is off until Feb. 6 when the Copper Kings travel to Chassell. Houghton heads to Ishpeming on Tuesday. 

– – – 

Calumet 16 14 15 12 — 57

Houghton 17 7 10 14 — 48

Calumet — Matt Ojala 10, Travis Ojala 19, Antilla 8, McParlan 7, Hyrkas 2, Twardzik 11. F: 13; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 8-12; 3-point field goals: Travis Ojala 3, Antilla 2, Matt Ojala, Twardzik.

Houghton — Keskimaki 8, Butvilas 10, Majlessi 5, Brundage 3, Sirard 18, Hyslop 4. F: 14; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 11-12; 3-point field goals: Sirard 2, Butvilas 2, Keskimaki 2, Brundage, Hyslop, Majlessi.