Houghton girls get new trophy

MARQUETTE – Not only did Houghton and L’Anse share the WestPAC girls’ basketball championship and each put one player among the U.P.’s five best, both took home one special award from All-U.P. voting released today.

The 25 members of the U.P. Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association named L’Anse coach Scott Lloyd the Class ABC Coach of the Year and the Houghton girls Team of the Year in Class AB.

The Gremlins exchanged their Class C Team of the Year honors from 2013 for the AB trophy in 2014.

Often, Team of the Year is bestowed unanimously based on an overwhelmingly superior record or postseason run, but Houghton’s award came after some discussion. The Gremlins and rival Marquette both went 18-2 in the regular season, split two meetings and suffered upset defeats in parallel district tournaments. Though the Redettes beat Class C finalist St. Ignace and four other Class A schools, Houghton’s other loss was to top-five L’Anse in December, while Marquette dropped a shocking decision at Kingsford in February.

It marks the fifth Team of the Year honor for Houghton in the last 10 years.

The other two were much simpler picks of state finalists St. Ignace (Class C) and Forest Park (Class D).

The Purple Hornets had a banner year in Lloyd’s fifth season at the helm, going 20-3, sharing the WestPAC championship, winning the Class C district tournament and reaching the regional final.

Lloyd is the first L’Anse coach to win the award since Carol Seavoy in 1976, the first year in which UPSSA gave awards for girls’ basketball. His career record is 65-42.

The Class D coaching honor went to Forest Park’s Jeff Syrjanen, who led the Lady Trojans to the only unbeaten regular season in the U.P. and within inches of a Class D state championship.

The Forest Park girls, and perhaps more specifically, one Forest Park girl, were the story of the 2013-14 winter sports season.

Lexi Gussert’s Miss Basketball-worthy senior campaign made her an automatic choice to win Class D Player of the Year for an unprecedented third consecutive year, breaking a tie with Nicole Elmblad (St. Ignace), Carly Benson (Carney-Nadeau), Julie Filpus (Baraga) and Heather Nelson (Menominee), all two-time winners.

St. Ignace’s Kelley Wright won Class ABC Player of the Year for her starring role on the Class C runners-up, denying Houghton’s Elisa Jurmu a chance to join the above list.