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Legends: Lange was a scoring machine

Gary Lange, pictured in a 1974 game for Michigan Tech, is one of very few local players to accumulate more than 1,000 points in both high school and college. (Michigan Technological University/Courtesy Photo)

HOUGHTON — When Houghton’s Brad Simonsen scored 63 points in a game versus Ishpeming this past winter, it brought immediate comparisons to past scoring feats in the Copper Country.

While Simonsen’s feat was certainly noteworthy, it wasn’t tops in the quad-county records.

That record belonged to the late Jim Manning of Trout Creek, who poured in 69 points in a 1961 game.

The output did surpass Houghton’s Gary Lange’s 60-point game in a 1970 game against Jeffers.

Lange went on to record 1,572 points in his prep career. He later scored 1,044 points at Michigan Tech.

Former Houghton coach Fritz Wilson said the 5-foot-11 Lange was an “exceptional player.”

“He was very quick, could jump and was good on defense.” Wilson said in a 1997 interview. “And he really knew the game.”

Lange also had some help. Classmate Barney Salo was a 6-foot-6 pivot player, who also went over the 1,000-point mark in his career.

“Barney was the kind of center who could control a game with his size,” Lange said in an earlier interview. “He blocked a lot of shots and could score from inside.”

When the Gremlins made a run deep into the state playoffs in the 1969 season, they added a 6-3 sophomore, Ron Saarela, who made a big contribution.

“Ron Saarela was a real solid player,” Wilson said. “He was a good outside shooter, could rebound and play defense.”

When HHS won the Class C regional title over favored St. Ignace in 1969, Saarela had the crucial points in the late going in a 57-54 win.

The Gremlins ended up losing to Saginaw St. Stephen in the state semifinals, however.

With Lange and Salo showing the way the next season, Houghton cruised through by going unbeaten in the regular campaign.

Lange averaged 31 points a game, while Salo was good for nearly 24 points an outing.

In a game against Jeffers, the two combined for a whopping 109 points — still a state two-man record.

Lange notched 60, Salo put in 49 more in a 134-62 win that drew criticism from some quarters.

The magic ended for HHS in a regional final against St. Ignace.

Lange was recruited by Michigan Tech and had a notable four-year career. He finished among school leaders in assists and steals.

His career total was surpassed by Tony Maino with 1,587 a few years later.

Simonsen, also headed to MTU, eclipsed Maino this season with 1,706 career points.

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