Gremlin girls get revenge

HOUGHTON – The L’Anse girls’ basketball team pulled off a historic 60-56 overtime win over Houghton in December, but the host Gremlins showed just how hard it is to beat a Julie Filpus-coached team twice, dominating all facets of Monday’s WestPAC rematch.

Elisa Jurmu matched her season average with 21 points, three other Gremlins hit double figures and Houghton (13-1, 5-1 WestPAC) held each of the Purple Hornets’ “big three” well under their season averages in a 76-41 win over L’Anse (9-4, 2-2 WestPAC).

“Losing in overtime to them, and being down by 14 and having the opportunity to win, it left us sour. It’s been on the back of our minds, and it does feel good to come out and get the win,” Filpus said. “It’s nice to win by this type of a margin. Our girls were waiting for this date for a while and I thought they were prepared to play.”

While Houghton’s lead was only 16-12 after the first quarter, the Gremlins opened the second quarter with an 8-0 run. Then, leading 32-20 at the half, the Gremlins kicked off the third quarter with a 9-0 run.

Finally, while there was little doubt who would win in the end, Houghton finished the game with a 12-0 run.

“It’s very upsetting – embarrassed is the better word,” said L’Anse coach Scott Lloyd, whose team’s Dec. 4 win over Houghton was the first by a local team since 1999. “I was hoping we could compete. I really did think we could win. I think we have the caliber of team that can beat them – we proved it once. I just don’t want people to think it was a fluke because I know when we play to our capabilities we can play with anybody.”

But they didn’t play to their capabilities, not even close. Lloyd was upset with his team’s lack of desire to play man-to-man defense and when he reluctantly switched to a zone, the rout was on. Filpus, on the other hand, was pleased overall with her team’s defensive intensity, holding Madi Swanson to 15 points (20-point season average) and Kelsey Ross and Valerie Rajala to nine (14- and 13-point averages, respectively).

“You can’t just focus on the rematch because there were a lot of games in between and there was a lot of progress we made in between, but I think we took some of the weaknesses in that first L’Anse game and improved upon them,” Filpus said. “Defending those three scorers and paying a little more attention to them helped us become successful.”

Rajala lacked her typical explosiveness while still recovering from an injury, and Swanson, who gets most of her points slashing the lane, didn’t get several foul calls Lloyd thought she deserved.

“I’ve never seen a girl get punished so much and not get a whistle,” said Lloyd, who also bemoaned his team’s lack of offensive organization and ability to secure defensive rebounds.

Jurmu was a rebound shy of a double-double, Sydney Dillinger had eight boards and Kelsie Richards added seven, five on the offensive glass.

L’Anse had 15 defensive rebounds as a team and only six offensive rebounds.

“They pounded us on the boards,” he said. “Early in the first half they got two/three possessions every time down the floor. You can’t give a good team like that extra possessions.”

Swanson scored 11 of her 15 in the first quarter, including a trey to give L’Anse its only lead of the game at 3-2 and a coast-to-coast buzzer-beating layup, to keep the visitors close, but then Jurmu took her turn in the second quarter. She scored Houghton’s final 10 points before the half, and the Gremlins’ relentless man-to-man defense helped hold L’Anse to just four second-quarter points – none from Swanson.

Houghton’s blitz continued immediately after halftime. Jurmu collected an offensive rebound and layup, Blaire Zenner and Dillinger added layups and Richards drilled a triple from the right wing, all in the first 90 seconds of the second half.

The rest of the third quarter was only 14-13 favoring Houghton, but the damage was done. After 24 minutes the Gremlins led 55-33.

The fourth quarter featured more dominance by the Black and Orange, whose depth simply overpowered the visitors, whose lack of depth was exposed.

Alexa Johnson scored 11 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter for Houghton, which had seven players with at least four points. Richards also had 14, while Zenner added 13.

“While we’re fortunate to have Elisa, who is scoring a lot of points for us, the other kids are able to step up and they do,” Filpus said.

L’Anse only had four players with a field goal.

“If they shut down my main three in scoring, we struggle to produce,” Lloyd said. “Houghton has a lot of depth, so they can get fresh legs and get quality on offense and defense. If I go with offense, I have no defense. When I go with my best defensive players I can’t score, so either way I don’t know which side of the sword I’m going to face.”

Houghton, whose 76 points is its second-highest scoring output of the year (78-32 vs. Lake Linden-Hubbell Jan. 4), will carry its 11-game winning streak – with a 28.5-point margin of victory – into Escanaba on Friday. L’Anse will kick off a four-game homestand Thursday against Calumet.