GLADSTONE - When the Houghton girls needed someone to make a big play, Elisa Jurmu was there to do the honors several times Thursday afternoon.
The junior forward also made the biggest play of this non-conference basketball match-up, sinking a five-foot turn-around jumper at the final buzzer to lift the Gremlins to a 52-50 triumph over the Gladstone Braves.
On at least four occasions, Jurmu converted layups on what otherwise may have been turnovers. She finished with 26 points.
Nine of her points came in the fourth quarter when Houghton overcame a 47-38 deficit by outscoring the Braves 14-3.
"She (Jurmu) is the real deal, and that's a good team" said Braves' coach Karl Dollhopf. "They're definitely a different team when they don't have her on the floor. I think down the stretch, we didn't make the plays when we needed to. Although, it wasn't due to a lack of effort. I thought our girls played with good intensity. We were taking the ball to the hole and being aggressive."
This contest was reminiscent of Houghton's previous visit to Gladstone two years ago when it erased a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull out a 49-48 triumph on Joey Carroll's buzzer-beating reverse layup.
Houghton 19 9 10 14 - 52
Gladstone 14 16 17 3 - 50
Houghton - Johnson 9, Datto 3, Zenner 8, Richards 2, Jurmu 26, Dillinger 4. FT: 9-12; F: 12; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Johnson 2, Jurma 2, Datto.
Gladstone - Austin 8, St. Cyr 7, Strasser 2, Jensen 11, Sharon 4, Beaudry 8, Hongisto 10. FT:?7-10; F: 11; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: St. Cyr, Jensen, Hongisto.
"Our programs are in similar positions," said Houghton coach Julie Filpus. "Both teams graduated a lot of players. I'm very upset they put us in the hole they did, but I'm also very proud of the way the girls battled back. Our defensive intensity picked up in the fourth quarter. We just gritted our teeth and got some stops. Only, we need to learn to take care of business on the floor without getting into that kind of a hole."
Houghton, which lost all its starters through graduation last spring, gained a 27-18 advantage on Jurmu's jumper from the lane less than three minutes into the second stanza.
The Braves (3-4) responded with a 12-3 run, gaining a 30-28 lead on running jumper from the boulevard by sophomore guard Alexis St. Cyr 20 seconds before halftime.
Houghton got into foul trouble midway through the third frame as Jurmu and junior guard Kelsie Richards were each whistled for their third foul just 30 seconds part.
Gladstone, trailing 38-37 at the time, took advantage and surged to its nine-point cushion heading into the final eight minutes.
"When we had Elisa and Kelsie on the floor, we felt we could defend with more confidence," said Filpus. "I thought Gladstone did a nice job mixing up its defense. They're athletic and they fight. It seemed like everytime we made a defensive error, they were able to capitalize. I thought we held our composure real well."
Senior guard Alexa Johnson, who scored nine points, swished back-to-back treys from the right wing to give Houghton a 10-7 lead late in the opening frame.
"The Johnson girl kept them going with her threes," said Dollhopf. "Although, I thought we did a real good job on her (defensively) in the second half."
Junior guard Callie Jensen led Gladstone with 11 points and sophomore forward Lexi Hongisto added 10, both in reserve roles. Junior center Jess Beaudry collected 10 rebounds for the Braves, who hit 17-of-45 field goals.
"Callie had a real nice game," said Dollhopf. "Jess is starting to make an inside presence and Lexi gave us some good minutes."
Gladstone, which won the JV game (50-22) and freshman contest (50-40 in overtime), hosts Escanaba Jan. 4. The Gremlins are also idle until Jan. 4 when they host Lake Linden-Hubbell.