Houghton rolls retooled rival

L’ANSE – The first two Houghton-Hancock boys’ basketball games were decided by a combined 10 points.

Round three was decided by much more than that Wednesday.

The Gremlins rolled into Friday’s Class C district final with a 68-31 rout of a Bulldog team missing its best player, Alex Almquist, due to his second concussion of the season.

“Our plan was to be aggressive on the offensive end, assuming Almquist was even in there. We noticed in our game film from the other games we weren’t getting a lot of second-chance opportunities. That’s something you need to create for yourself in tournament time. You can’t rely on one shot and be done. You have to get yourself second and third chances and we were able to do that with some aggressive play,” Houghton coach Jared Lawson said.

Houghton (13-7) was aggressive, and accurate too, knocking down all sorts of shots from the outside and finding driving opportunities on the inside.

Cody Goodreau hit a trey 12 seconds in to start a 13-0 game-opening run over the first 3:25. Houghton then pitched a shutout for the whole second quarter to go into the locker room up 33-5.

“Early on, we were doing a little bit of what we wanted but not everything. We needed guys to look for their shots a little bit more as opposed to maybe just passing it around. I thought we were passing up chances, and Houghton was on fire. They were making everything,” Hancock coach Curtis Wittenberg said.

Almquist hit his head on the floor in the regular season finale last Thursday at Lake Linden-Hubbell and was not cleared to play Wednesday. He also missed a December game against Jeffers after hitting his head in the first Houghton-Hancock game. Without his 21.5 points per game or his 6-foot-7 presence in the paint, Hancock (11-10) couldn’t get much going until it was too late.

Senior Shane Raasio drew the tough burden of carrying the Bulldog offense. He scored 13 points including a farewell three at the buzzer.

For Houghton, Ryan LaBerge led all scorers with 18 points. Trent Keteri added 16.

The Gremlins will go for their first district title since 2010 Friday against Ironwood, the U.P.’s No. 3-ranked team in Class ABC.

“We know with Ironwood they’ve got some great shooters from the outside. That’s something we’re going to have to contain, make sure we try to take it from the outside and force them to put the ball on the floor a few times,” Lawson said.