Hancock basketball wins 1st Wing Ding since 2012

Daily Mining Gazette/Bryce Derouin Hancock’s Mike McParlan shoots against Houghton in Hancock during Friday’s Wing Ding game.

HANCOCK — As the Hancock Bulldogs went through the customary postgame handshake line, their fellow spirited students — faces painted and clad from head to toe in red and yellow — waited to give them a hero’s greeting. 

Moments later, Hancock senior Chad Raasio took the Wing Ding trophy and raised it high while his teammates and fans celebrated Hancock’s 58-41 Wing Ding victory over the Houghton Gremlins Friday in Hancock.

The win gave Hancock its first Wing Ding triumph since 2012, when Hancock won 56-46 on Feb. 10. The trophy Raasio raised was brought into the rivalry in 2015 and now, Hancock can finally have its name inscribed on the front. 

“It feels really good,” Hancock senior Mike McParlan said. “It’s just many years of this all coming together.”

This winter moment was another signature memory for Hancock. The first came during the fall football season when the Bulldogs topped Houghton 20-18 in the Copper Bowl, marking the school’s first victory in the football rivalry since 2011. Friday’s postgame scene was similar to that cold fall night on Oct. 22, with players posing with family members, friends and teammates with the rivalry trophy. 

Similar to Ted Holmstrom and the football program, Hancock basketball head coach Matt Strong and his team made winning this Wing Ding game a primary goal in the preseason.

They can cross it off the list now.

“This was the one thing they wanted,” Strong said. “We set this as a goal and kind of went from there. 

“I told them to not come out flat because (Houghton) isn’t going to come out flat.”

And Houghton didn’t, taking a 12-11 lead after the first quarter. But from that point on, Hancock’s size and physicality won out on the defensive end, while the Bulldogs had every answer for Houghton’s 2-3 zone. Whether it was Raasio driving, McParlan and senior Reece Anderson dominating inside, or senior Will Blau chipping in with two 3s, Hancock’s multitude of weapons was too much.

“When Reece is hitting outside shots and Blau is hitting outside shots, it’s going to make it difficult for us,” Houghton head coach Jared Lawson said. “We’re in a defense where we can’t really bend too much. When they start making those, we’re kind of stretching ourselves a little bit and it exposes the inside game for McParlan.”

Raasio paced Hancock (9-5, 3-2) with 18 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, and Anderson added a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds. 

The contest was the physical affair you’d expect from two rivals who were cheered on by raucous student sections. But that type of game heavily favored the stronger, bigger and more athletic Bulldogs. Houghton struggled against Hancock’s man-to-man defense after the opening quarter, going 9 of 37 from the field in that span (24 percent).

“There were no adjustments after the first quarter. I just think we started playing better defense, honestly,” Strong said. “There was better gap help and the back side was there more often.”

After a tightly-contested first half, Hancock blew the game open by outscoring Houghton 19-6 to start the third. Raasio made it 46-31 on a corner 3 off an assist from Anderson. The Bulldogs shot an efficient 8 of 16 in the deciding quarter.

Houghton senior Nicholas Wilson converted a 10-foot jumper in the lane midway through the fourth, trimming Hancock’s lead to 48-35. But that was the closest Houghton would get. There would be no late-game drama, allowing some of the students to leave early in order to get a good seat at the Wing Ding hockey game.

For Houghton (3-10, 2-5), sophomore George Butvilas and freshman Bradley Sirard, they played admirably in their first Wing Ding game; Butvilas led the Gremlins with 16 points, while Sirard added 13. 

“Offensively, I think we know we need to find those guys,” Lawson said. “But I’ll be the first one to tell them that defensively, it’s going to be a lesson they learned here tonight. Hancock got really physical with our young guys. That’s the thing they’re going to have to learn from and hopefully in the offseason, they build upon it and do what they need to do to make sure they’re stronger.”

Next, Hancock goes to Bessemer on Tuesday. Houghton hosts Kingsford on Thursday, which will be a district preview.

Houghton 12 11 8 10 — 41

Hancock 11 16 19 12 — 58

Houghton — Butvilas 16, Majlessi 1, Strong 1, Sirard 13, Hillstrom 2, Wilson 6, Filpus 2. F: 11; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 7-12; 3-point field goals: Butvilas 3, Sirard 3. 

Hancock — Watson 5, Stimac 3, Devin Raasio 4, Chad Raasio 18, Blau 8, Anderson 11, McParlan 9. F: 13; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 7-8; 3-point field goals: Blau 2, Chad Raasio, Stimac, Watson.