Keter-3 sinks Kings

HOUGHTON – For the first 31 minutes and 58 seconds of Friday’s WestPAC game, Houghton’s Trent Keteri was having the worst outside shooting game of his varsity basketball career.

For the last two seconds, he had one of the best moments of his athletic career and the Gremlins’ season.

Keteri drilled a trey from the left corner as time expired and Houghton defeated Calumet, 40-39.

“I guess it came at the right time,” the junior guard said.

Keteri, who averages more than three triples made per game, had just one Friday, but it couldn’t have been more vital, especially after he played a role in his team’s near-downfall.

“I quickly pulled Trent aside and told him we want to go to Ryan (LaBerge), set the double screen and then after you set the double screen, kick out to the corner. We didn’t anticipate he would find the open look like he did, but Ryan was taken, he was double teamed and Trent was luckily open in the corner and he hit the shot,” Houghton coach Jared Lawson said.

After drawing a foul with 10 seconds left in a tie game, Keteri missed the front end of a one-and-one. Calumet’s Jake Pieti rebounded and threw a full-court outlet pass toward a pair of Copper Kings who had slipped behind the Gremlin defense. Owen Kariniemi caught it and laid it in to put Calumet up 39-37. Time expired, but Houghton was granted a timeout with three seconds left.

After an inbounds pass from its own baseline was batted out of play at halfcourt by the scorer’s table, Houghton’s Zack Ohtonen inbounded from the sideline.

He saw extra coverage go with LaBerge to the basket, noticed Keteri leaking toward the corner and hit him with the game-winning assist.

“I feel pretty good. Feel like I’m not going to sleep tonight,” he said.

Ohtonen, a senior and four-year varsity player, has been through many a WestPAC war with Calumet, and when the Copper Kings took the lead and the buzzer sounded, he said his mind was on the exit.

“I was about to run out. I thought the game was over,” he said.

The win puts Houghton (7-2, 5-1), which trailed by 12 at the midway point of the third quarter, in the solo conference lead at about the halfway point of the season.

“It means a lot, because if it happens again in the future, we have the chance and the ability to do it. We’re not going to give up and we’ve got to fight and bring it every night,” Ohtonen said.

The only ones bringing it for most of the first half were the visitors. Paul Torola scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the last nine minutes of the first half, sparking a 15-2 run that put Calumet up 25-12 with with 3:35 left and 27-16 at halftime.

Lawson, who had started Houghton in a zone press to capitalize on Calumet’s recent shooting woes, switched to a man press at the half.

“We have our identity, which is going to be non-stop pressure the entire game. It’s what we did in the second half. That’s my fault as a coach, trying to change things up in the first half and going away from our man-to-man pressure. That’s something we went back to in the second half,” he said.

Calumet held its own until late in the third quarter, when several trap steals and a pair of Mike Saari treys put the Gremlins on a 12-2 run to get back into it and close within two at the three-quarter mark.

“There was one span there where we started playing a little too fast and with their press, they went on a run and we started making bad decisions. We had a few opportunities to score down low and didn’t knock the shots down, we just have to do a better job of dealing with that stuff,” Calumet coach Mike Ojala said.

The teams traded buckets early in the fourth, then traded stops. Neither side had score for more than three minutes when Keteri went to the line for his one-and-one.

“That was just a great heads-up play by Owen and a heck of a throw by Jake down the court to get that bucket,” Ojala said.

Kariniemi added 10 points for the Copper Kings, who fall to 6-5 (2-3 WestPAC). Calumet, which won the JV game 42-39, has a make-up game Monday against Baraga.

LaBerge led Houghton with 12 points and Keteri finished with 11. The Gremlins host Ishpeming Tuesday.