Honors all around for Houghton girls

HANCOCK – Monday night was a good night to be a Gremlin.

The Houghton girls basketball team clinched at least a share of its 14th straight WestPAC championship with a hard fought 47-34 win over rivals Hancock.

And fittingly enough, senior forward Elisa Jurmu broke the career 1,000-point barrier in that victory, a poetic nod to a player who epitomizes the Gremlin style of basketball.

Jurmu needed just four points to reach 1,000 Monday, and the versatile forward hit that mark during the first play of the second quarter, fighting for position on an out-of-bounds play and converting a layup. During a free throw break a minute later, her achievement was announced to the crowd and the Houghton student section unveiled a bold “1,000” sign as Jurmu’s teammates raced to hug her.

After the game, Jurmu was more excited about the team earning another conference title then her individual honor.

“It’s something I never thought I could accomplish, never even dreamed of it,” Jurmu said. “Really I just have to thank my coaches and teammates, because I couldn’t do it without them. This is definitely a game I won’t forget. playing Hancock, winning the WestPAC, it’s pretty special.”

If Jurmu attempted to deflect praise somewhat, her teammates and coaches were plenty willing to laud it on her.

“What Elisa has done here to get to that point is phenomenal,” Houghton assistant coach Mark Nolan said, as head coach Julie Filpus was out of town for personal reasons. “Her motor is incredible, she really, really gets after it. We are blessed to have her.”

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Jurmu’s accomplishment comes from the short period of time it took her. Jurmu did not start playing varsity basketball until there were six games left in her sophomore season.

She broke 1,000 in her 57th appearance for the varsity.

“It is a testament to her work ethic,” Nolan said. “You can look at Elisa and point to the younger kids and say, ‘if you work hard, that is what you can accomplish.’ I just remember her coming to our open gym as a freshman, and right away you could see a lot of athletic ability but she had some polishing up to do. Just another example of what can happen when you put the time in.”

Even opposing coaches admire what Jurmu has accomplished.

“She is the fastest player for her position that I’ve ever seen,” Hancock coach Jack Johnson said. “You expect some quickness out of the guards, but you don’t expect a post player to be beating everyone else down the floor, every single trip. You admire her, and you hope her season keeps going well, but yeah, she can make it difficult to coach against.”

In the midst of Jurmu’s career night – she finished with 18 points – Houghton still had a game to play.

Hancock (13-6, 3-5 WestPAC)?gave the Gremlins a typical rivalry battle, complete with intense defense and momentum swings, but Houghton connected on 20-of-22 free throws, 10-of-10 in the fourth quarter to hold the Bulldogs at bay.

“Our team was really focused tonight,” Jurmu said. “Hitting all 10 free throws in the fourth quarter was huge.”

A six-point spurt from Hancock freshman Maija Sebbas allowed the Bulldogs to cut the lead to five in the fourth quarter, but eight free throws from Michelle Laux, Jurmu and Ashlyn Kero held off the comeback attempt.

“You can’t fault our effort tonight,” Johnson said. “We just made a few too many mistakes down the stretch and you can’t do that against a team like Houghton.”

Houghton (18-2, 7-1 WestPAC)?will have to wait until Friday night to see if they share the title with L’Anse. If the Purple Hornets win against Calumet, they split.

“It was good performance under pressure tonight,” Nolan said. “In some respects the game wasn’t pretty, but we did what we needed to pull it out.”