In a game that was plodding along at a snail’s pace, Calumet head coach Mike Ojala saw an opportunity to ratchet up the pressure.
So his team began picking up Houghton’s guards further up and trapping them, forcing the Gremlins into miscue after miscue. The adjustment turned a 20-20 game into an eventual 43-30 West-PAC victory for the Calumet Copper Kings Friday in Houghton.
Ojala made the adjustment after a Houghton 7-0 run tied the game at 20 with 5 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third. Facing increased pressure, the Houghton Gremlins didn’t score for the next 6:51.
“Our guards were doing a good job of getting hands on the ball and pressuring,” Ojala said. “(Houghton) established themselves in the first few possessions, so we felt that we needed to combat that, and I thought we did a good job mixing up a few things, defensively.”
Houghton committed nine turnovers in the second half, which was actually an improvement over the 13 they had in the first two quarters. With Calumet’s length inside and quickness on the perimeter, Houghton never was in an offensive rhythm and finished 10 of 31 from the field.
“Right now, I think we struggle because we don’t really have a leader and a point guard position,” Houghton head coach Jared Lawson said. “That can cause some frustration for your guys on the basketball court.
“(Their pressure) led to some fast-break layups. And in this type of game, it’s going to be harder to get back in it.”
Houghton’s guard issues took a hit with the loss of senior guard Ben Strong, who was injured just over a week ago. Strong is expected to be out for two more weeks.
Calumet senior Wyatt Loukus led all scorers with 23 points. Loukus connected on five 3s, providing Calumet (9-3, 3-1) with the reliable outside threat to negate Houghton’s 2-3 zone.
Loukus’ 23-point effort follows up his 25-point game Tuesday against the Jeffers Jets.
“I thought Wyatt stayed confident and shot with good rhythm tonight,” Ojala said. “Two games in a row now it’s been Wyatt. He got himself in good position to make some shots and hit some big ones.”
Both teams utilize some of the slowest tempos in the area, but together, the game seemed to be even more drawn out than usual. For the first 3:23, the scoreboard resembled a hockey game: 0-0.
Loukus ended the scoring drought with a 3 with 4:37 remaining in the first quarter. Houghton (3-7, 2-4) wasn’t on the scoreboard until senior Chris Filpus connected on two free throws with 2:13 left in the opening quarter.
“Sometimes it was kind of agonizing,” Lawson said. “Hats off to both defenses. I think these are two of the better defenses in the Copper Country. When points are that valuable, you hope that someone steps up.”
After trailing 10-9, Calumet closed the first half on an 11-4 run to take a 20-13 lead into halftime.
Sophomore George Butvilas led the Gremlins with 12 points and was someone who rose to the occasion at Lawson’s request. To start the third, Butvilas converted a 12-foot jumper in traffic, swished a 3 and finished a driving layup for Houghton’s 7-0 rally to start the second half, tying the game at 20.
It was Houghton’s only positive offensive stretch and it came after Lawson’s message at halftime.
“Patience. And less noonball-type basketball,” said Lawson about what he told his players during the break. “When you play basketball at noonball or whatever it is, no one plays defense. When you play organized basketball, guys know how to break you down.
“I got on them at halftime to run their offense with patience and we come out and score seven straight. Then, all of a sudden we got away from it.”
After Butvilas’ scoring run, Houghton shot just 3 of 15 the rest of the way against Calumet’s aggressive defensive adjustment.
“We had consistent effort and rebounded well,” Ojala said. “Good, tough ball pressure and keeping guys like Filpus off the glass were keys to me.”
Calumet shot 14 of 44 (32 percent) and had 13 turnovers.
Next, Calumet hosts Negaunee on Tuesday; Houghton hosts Ishpeming on the same day.
Calumet 7 13 8 15 — 43
Houghton 4 9 7 10 — 30
Calumet — Matt Ojala 2, Loukus 23, Travis Ojala 4, Twardzik 5, Helminen 7, Torola 2. F: 11; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Loukus 5.
Houghton — Butvilas 12, Sirard 11, Wilson 2, Filpus 5. F: 9; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 5-5; 3-point field goals: Sirard 3, Butvilas, Filpus.