HOUGHTON - Aside from some early-game nerves and late-game fatigue, the Houghton boys' basketball team looked pretty polished in a season-opening 62-45 non-conference win over Northland Pines, Wis.
The Gremlins held a 16-15 lead midway through the second quarter before breaking through on an 11-0 run. They led by at least nine points the rest of the way.
"The first game you're always ready to get going and get it under your belt. It makes it nicer having that first win," said first-year Houghton coach Jared Lawson. "On our end I just wanted us to play good defense and run the offense the way we ran it in practice, and for the most part we did a good job with that."
Houghton senior Zack Ohtonen elevates for a first-quarter mid-range jump shot against Northland Pines defenders A.J. Skarbek (5) and Jon Eichman in the Gremlins’ season-opening 62-45 home win over the Eagles Monday night. Ohtonen had 12 points and 10 rebounds in the game. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Houghton set the tone out of the gate with a full-court press, which turned into fast-break points, but the Eagles got some easy baskets, too.
Before long the Gremlins settled into patient offensive possessions, and they turned a 4-4 tie into a 10-4 lead with back-to-back 3s by Trent Keteri and Ryan LaBerge. Houghton maintained the six-point lead at 16-10 before NP rattled off five straight in the last 1:40 of the first quarter, capped off by a Cooper Kerner fade-away buzzer-beater.
Those would be the last points for either team for 4 minutes and 18 seconds. The teams traded sloppy possessions and both coaches took a timeout. Whatever Lawson said during his 60-second break worked.
Pines 15 5 16 9 - 45
Houghton 16 15 17 14 - 62
Northland Pines Andrew McGill 14, Jon Eichman 13, Cooper Kerner 9, Shane Levan 4, AJ Skarbek 2, Alek Helgeson 2, Taylor Gensler 1; FT 6-8; Fouls: 19; Fouled out: Kerner; 3-point field goals: Eichman 4.
Houghton Cody Goodreau 17, Ryan LaBerge 15, Zack Ohtonen 12, Trent Keteri 8, Eli Lilleskov 4, Ben Collaer 2, Kyle Mattson 2, Dyson Bastian 2; FT: 10-13; Fouls: 12; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: LaBerge 2, Keteri 2.
"I brought the guys over and I said 'I'll be honest with you, this is not good both ways,'" he said. "It was one of those things for us that first game and trying to get those nerves out of the system and trying to find your body again.
"I was very satisfied with our ability to limit second-chance points through the middle of the game and our offensive rebounding getting second-chance opportunities was pretty critical."
Keteri hit his second 3 moments after Lawson's timeout, Zack Ohtonen tallied a lay-up-and-one, LaBerge drilled a 3 from the top of the key and Ohtonen converted a steal to a lay-up all in the next 80 seconds.
"We couldn't keep (LaBerge) outside the lane. He was able to penetrate and score and get his teammates involved," Eagles' eighth-year coach Ryan Clark said. "Offensively, I don't think we had a possession more than three passes. We took the first open shot we could get, which was usually a 3."
Northland Pines attempted 22 trifectas in the game, only converting on four of them.
"I thought Houghton definitely played much better than we did," Clark said. "They took care of the ball, they played pretty good defense and they were patient on offense."
After taking 11 3-pointers in the first half - and making five of them - Houghton worked its way inside in the second half. The Gremlins only shot two from beyond the arc in the final 16 minutes and only four of their 18 third-quarter shots were outside the paint. Converting turnovers into easy layups and crashing the offensive glass - they got 15 offensive rebounds in the game - certainly helped.
"They crushed us on the boards," Clark said.
Houghton led 31-20 at the half, 48-36 after three quarters and senior Cody Goodreau scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in Houghton's 14-point fourth quarter.
Goodreau also notched five rebounds, three blocks, two assists and a steal. LaBerge pitched in 15 points and Ohtonen added a double-double with 12 pounds and 10 rebounds for the victors.
Andrew McGill and Jon Eichman were the only players in double figures for the 0-4 Eagles with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
"I enjoy coming up here. This is a really nice non-conference game for both teams and hopefully we keep this match-up going," Clark said. "I thought their coach did a really good job for their first game, his first year as well - they have an identity, they play well together and they played pretty disciplined for a first game, so I was really impressed."
Houghton, which won the JV game 52-45, kicks off WestPAC play Thursday by hosting L'Anse.