By BRANDON VEALE
EAST LANSING The Houghton girls' basketball team couldn't make
enough shots to have a shot Thursday.
Spending most of their Class C state semifinal with a shooting
percentage in the teens, the Gremlins were dismissed from the Breslin
Houghton 6 6 10 10 32
Nouvel 15 8 11 10 44
Houghton - Elisa Jurmu 11, Alexa Johnson 11, Kelsie Richards 4, Blaire
Zenner 3, Sydney Dillinger 3; FT: 6-11; Fouls: 12; Fouled out: none;
3-point field goals: Johnson 3, Dillinger 1.
Saginaw Nouvel Rachel McInerney 16, Taylor Hengesbach 13, nicole
Buckingham 6, Lindsay Stroebel 4, Laurel Jacqmain 3, Alex Joynt 2; FT:
7-13; Fouls: 9; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Hengesbach 1.
Center by Saginaw Nouvel Catholic Central, 44-32.
"We thought we got some good opportunities to shoot in the first half
from 15 feet and out but again, it was a tough shooting performance
for us, our worst of the year and I really do think their defensive
efforts affected that," Houghton coach Julie Filpus said.
With the luxury of all-state forward Taylor Hengesbach, a 5-foot-10
senior, 5-9 sophomore Rachel Buckingham and 6-2 junior Rachel
McInerney in the frontcourt, the Panthers (25-2) settled into a 2-3
zone defense and challenged Houghton to shoot them out of it. Instead,
the Gremlins (23-3) gave the Panther frontcourt many opportunities to
McInerney had 12 defensive rebounds, as part of a comprehensive
double-double of 16 points and 17 boards.
"They're tough post players and we tried our best to front and to just
stop them, but they're good all-around basketball players," Houghton
senior Blaire Zenner said.
She and junior Elisa Jurmu drew the unenviable assignment of matching
them on both ends. Houghton used lanky sophomore guard Sydney
Dillinger to keep Nouvel from using most traditional post moves, but
it was only so effective, as their trio combined for 35 of Nouvel's 44
"They did a really good job of closing down the post. There was always
three girls closing down as soon as possible. We had to adjust to it
and pass more to the outside. I just had to work as hard as I could to
get steals and rebounds," McInerney said.
Houghton's fate may have been sealed early. The Panthers, who averaged
32.9 points against per game this season, scored the first 11 points
over the initial 4:44. In the same stretch, the Gremlins had five
misses (three from outside the arc) and three turnovers.
Filpus said the game-opening run wasn't about nerves as it was about
"We handled their pressure. They might have forced a couple of
turnovers in the first half, but the part that frustrated us is we
feel we have a good in side-outside attack and their length really
affected our inside attack," she said.
Jurmu broke the drought by driving hard to the hoop for an and-one
with 3:01 left in the first quarter. The Gremlins' top scoring threat
went hard at McInerney all night, but the junior repelled many of
them, recording all five of her blocks on Jurmu shot attempts.
Jurmu still co-led Houghton in scoring with 11 points, but five were
free throws. She went 3-for-16 from the field.
Houghton's offense found a gear late in the first and into the second,
closing to within 17-10 at the midpoint, but Nouvel expanded its lead
to 13 late (11 at the half), forcing the Gremlins to hope for a
second-half run that never quite materialized.
The latter periods were fairly even, but the Gremlins couldn't take
the second digit off the Panthers' lead until the last two minutes.
Alexa Johnson was the other co-leader for Houghton's offense, knocking
down three second-half triples en route to her 11. She, Zenner and
Ashley Laux got a chance to make their final varsity appearances on
the state's biggest stage, a fact that didn't go unrecognized.
"It's honestly surreal just being here. Just being here is a blessing
and we've cherished every minute of it," Zenner said.