Houghton tops Calumet in up-and-down contest

Houghton’s Kara Pietila shoots around Calumet’s Brooke Kariniemi Tuesday in Calumet. Houghton won 51-47. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

CALUMET — While the JV game went on, Julie Filpus and Jeff Twardzik exchanged experiences of the unique growing process that’s occurred within each of their programs. In recent years, Houghton and Calumet have featured some of the premier teams in the U.P. and spent the majority of weeks atop the U.P. poll. But so far, the two teams are a combined 0-5 against Class C schools from the Central U.P. and are absent in the polls while they attempt to recapture the type of dominance that has eluded them to this point.

“It’s just a funny year where we’re both trying to figure this thing out, where the pieces need to go to be a successful team and who’s going to step up,” Twardzik said of the 15-minute conversation.

In the first meeting between the rivals, Houghton prevailed 51-47 in what was a proper showing of two teams working out the kinks, Tuesday in Calumet. For every play that highlighted the athleticism and skill, there seemed to be a turnover or weak facet of each team’s game to offset the good.

Neither team shot particularly well (Houghton 37 percent, Calumet 33 percent) and turnovers were an issue, with the Gremlins committing 20 miscues and the Copper Kings finishing with 21 mistakes.

The victory gives Houghton the top spot in the West-PAC with a 3-0 conference record (6-3 overall), while Calumet falls to 3-1 (5-3).

“Tonight’s win was an ugly battle,” Filpus said. “We’re happy with the progress we’re making, but we were too tight on offense this evening.

“We wanted to put ourselves into a position to win the conference, and you use that as your motivation. We’re walking out of here with that opportunity, and that’s a good thing.”

Houghton senior Kara Pietila led the winners with 16 points while seniors Harlee Froberg (13) and Kendra Monette (11) each reached double figures.

Calumet senior Brooke Kariniemi finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds and senior Brea Johnson and junior Celia Kiilunen each scored 10 points.

Out of Calumet’s 21 turnovers, none were more costly than the three that took place over the final 90 seconds when the Copper Kings trailed 49-47.

On one of the final possessions Calumet was able to get a shot off, junior Ava Anderson launched a 3 from the left wing that Twardzik believed was going in — instead, it was just a bit long off the back of the rim. The Copper Kings secured the offensive board before turning it over.

With 33 seconds remaining, Houghton gave it back on an over-and-back call. But once again, Calumet could not capitalize as Houghton’s defense stood tall and forced another turnover.

Monette sealed the game with two free throws for a 51-47 lead with 11 seconds left.

“It’s something that I’ll put on my shoulders,” Twardzik said of his team not being able to execute down the stretch. “We have got to have those go-to plays where there’s just no gray area in what we do. When I’m sitting here in the huddle, it’s asking a lot of these ladies; they’re doing the best they can. But it wasn’t exactly what we talked about, so it’s something I need to correct, and I will.

“It looked like (Ava’s shot) was money. Just a couple of those things needed to happen. We needed a break in the end and we didn’t get it.”

Houghton did get the roll it needed.

Tied at 47, Pietila converted a 16-foot jumper from near the top of the key when she received a friendly roll from the rim for the go-ahead basket. Pietila scored seven straight points down the stretch before Monette’s game-clinching free throws.

“The possession before, (Kara) had a shot four feet from there and didn’t take it and turned it over,” Filpus said. “I was happy to see her confidently come down and take that.

“There were times we weren’t working together, but we got in a stretch in the second half where we were getting some really nice looks out of our 1-4 high offense.”

The biggest lead of the night was 24-17 in Calumet’s favor during the second quarter. Otherwise, the two teams remained within two possessions of each other throughout the game.

Following a 3-point play from Pietila, Kiilunen responded with a 3-point play of her own after she converted a layup in transition while being fouled, before making the free throw. However, Calumet went scoreless over the final 1:52.

“The one thing I told the girls was that we’re learning to play basketball through this season,” Twardzik said. “We didn’t have a great offseason. We went to no team camps — the kids were just busy. But I feel really good about where we’re going. Our word is ‘next’ and next practice we’re going to get better, and next game we’re going to get better. I really believe at the end that we’re going to be competitive.”

Calumet held a 42-33 advantage on the boards. In addition to Kariniemi’s 14 rebounds, senior Lea Bjorn added 13.

The two teams will meet again on Feb. 12 in Houghton. Then the rivals will meet for a third time on Feb. 26 in Calumet for a district semifinal matchup.

Up next, Houghton heads to West Iron County on Friday. Calumet hosts Chassell on Monday.

– – –

Houghton 13 14 13 11 — 51

Calumet 19 7 11 10 — 47

Houghton — Dillinger 3, Pietila 16, Klein 8 Monette 11, Froberg 13. F: 12; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 10-17; 3-point field goals: Froberg.

Calumet — Anderson 2, Brea Johnson 10, Bjorn 7, Amber Johnson 2, Anderson 2, Kiilunen 10, Kariniemi 14. F: 17; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 8-12; 3-point field goals: Brea Johnson 2, Bjorn.


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