Lakes shake slump, Gremlins

LAKE LINDEN – The Lake Linden-Hubbell Lakes couldn’t afford to take a three-game losing streak into a key Copper Country Conference game at Jeffers Friday, so they picked up the pace and dropped both Houghton and their slump Tuesday.

Tyler Roose scored 11 of his 27 points in the fourth quarter as the Lakes defeated the Gremlins 64-58.

“We let one slip away against L’Anse (Friday) and we battled back in a similar situation and couldn’t close the deal. We talked about being mentally tough all week and being able to finish things. The kids just played. They wanted this one, they played hard. We ratcheted up our defense and they turned the ball over,” LL-H coach Jack Kumpula said.

The Lakes (11-3) fell behind 15-6 late in the first quarter behind 11 Trent Keteri points and though they got back on even terms relatively quickly, it took a 13-0 run to start the fourth quarter to get control of the energetic non-league game.

Both teams play similar full-court styles with a diamond-and-one press. Houghton coach Jared Lawson admitted the Lakes wore it better Tuesday.

“I think they did a better job of running it tonight. They were more aggressive, they got their hands in passing lanes, and that caused some guys to throw some balls away in the fourth quarter when we had that 13-0 run against us,” he said.

Houghton (9-4) may have sealed its fate with 31.7 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Cody Goodreau, who had four fouls with 2:27 to play in the first half, finally picked up his fifth and exited permanently, putting the Gremlins without their top two ballhandlers (point guard Ryan LaBerge remains out with a broken hand). Against a swarming team that runs particularly deep, trouble was brewing.

“When (Goodreau) fouled out, they lost their ballhandler, they lost their go-to kid and we kind of smelled blood in the water and went after them,” Kumpula said.

It didn’t just hurt Houghton’s offense. Goodreau was also primarily responsible for Roose, the Lakes’ leading scorer, who had three field goals and two free throws as LL-H went from 43-41 down at the three-quarter mark to 54-43 ahead with four minutes to play.

Justin Ruotsala finally ended the drought with a drive to the basket with 3:53 to play, but the closest the Gremlins got down the stretch was five.

“They did a great job of passing and making us chase around the ball in our man-to-man defense and getting open looks underneath the bucket. Got to tip my hat to Lake Linden, they did a great job of taking care of the basketball and making the right passes,” Lawson said.

The defeat wasted a career effort from Keteri, who followed up his 11-point first quarter for a total of 26, seven more than his previous career high.

On the other hand, Roose’s 27 was his fourth effort of 25 or more this season.

“His leadership and the way he just takes over a game all of our big wins, there’s very few games we’ve played and won the game where he didn’t have a very good fourth quarter,” Kumpula said.

The two teams will meet again in Houghton next Tuesday, but before then, the Lakes go to Jeffers Friday, where they can put away the CCC crown.

“We hadn’t lost two games in a row all year and to get this win heading in to Jeffers, it was huge for our confidence, for our psyche. We know it’s going to be tough down in there, but that’s a game we really, really want,” Kumpula said.

The Gremlins have a back-to-back at the tail end of the week: They’ll make up a home game Thursday with Ontonagon before hitting the road to Escanaba Friday night.