Jurmu, Gremlins drive to the top

MARQUETTE – Powered by a relentless ‘motor’ and intensity, Elisa Jurmu of Houghton now finds herself at the pinnacle of U.P. girls’ basketball players and the rest of her team has come along with her.

Jurmu, a junior, was elected the second U.P. Class ABC Player of the Year in HHS history Wednesday at the 38th annual All-U.P. Girls’ Basketball Selection Meeting of the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association at the Don H. Bottum University Center on the campus of Northern Michigan University.

In addition to Jurmu’s individual honor, the Gremlins recaptured the Class C Team of the Year trophy for the first time since 2009. That team, coincidentally, was led by the other Gremlin to win the Player of the Year award, Samantha Manderfield.

The intensity with which Jurmu approaches the game was apparent to more coaches than just her own, Julie Filpus.

“Elisa loves to compete. Elisa hates to lose. She is out on the floor doing whatever she can to be a good teammate,” Filpus said after a Dec. 18 home game with Escanaba.

Filpus herself was Class D Player of the Year at Baraga twice in 1988 and 89.

Jurmu, named WestPAC co-MVP, also was named to the all-class Dream Team.

She averaged exactly 20 points a game and led the Gremlins to an 18-2 record and No. 2 ranking narrowly behind Marquette, with which Houghton split in the regular season, in the final UPSSA poll.

Among the standout games in Jurmu’s season, her first full campaign on varsity, were a season-high 27 in a battle of ranked teams the Gremlins won by 28 points at Kingsford.

“The Jurmu girl just does an outstanding job of running the court, and then when she does get the ball in the post, she really knows what to do with it,” Kingsford coach Mike Cross said after that game.

Jurmu also scored 26 on four separate occasions, including in a state quarterfinal vs. Shelby that sent the Gremlins to the Breslin Center for the first time since 2006.

Marquette sophomore Hunter Viitala also received votes.

That said, the No. 1 player in the entire U.P. is very well known – Forest Park’s Lexi Gussert, the Class D Player of the Year for the second straight year.

Gussert’s selection was not unanimous due to symbolic recognition for St. Ignace junior Kelley Wright – merely the best player on an unbeaten state championship team that was No. 1 team wire-to-wire in the Associated Press state Class D poll – but the acclaim for the Forest Park junior was universal.

Gussert posted absurd totals of 32.5 points and 11 rebounds per game and despite being a dominant post player at 6 feet, also made 93 three-pointers, which is tied for second-most in a single-season in state history.

Her total of 809 points this season alone (the fifth-best total in state history) puts her career number at 1,891. Barring injury, Gussert will probably mow down the U.P. records held by Allison Bailey of Ewen-Trout Creek (2,137) and Dominic Jacobetti of Negaunee St. Paul (2,140) midway through her senior season. If she were to repeat her junior campaign exactly, she’d land at 2,700 career points, third in state annals, though the all-time record of 3,034 from Jasmine Hines of Central Lake may be the only thing not within Gussert’s grasp.

Still, the Team of the Year and Coach of the Year honors in Class D remained with the state champions in St. Ignace.

The Saints won their fourth state title, all under coach Dorene Ingalls’ leadership, in the last 14 years, but this year’s was the first unblemished. It is the fourth time Ingalls has been so honored and third in the last four years.

The Class ABC Coach of the Year is a first-timer, Marquette’s Ben Smith. Smith piloted the Redettes to a 17-3 mark and helped them regain Class AB Team of the Year honors they gave to Gladstone for one year in 2012.

Both Filpus and Cross received votes.