IRON RIVER—The winner and still West Pac Conference champions: the Houghton Gremlins.
The West Iron girls’ dreams of contending for a conference title and maybe even a regional trophy got a good drenching at Houghton Dec. 16, and it was the Gremlin girls pouring the cold water.
The Gremlins, who dealt West Iron three of its four losses last season, including a season-ending defeat at the regional semifinals, showed they’re still the West Pac’s reigning monarchs, stopping the Wykons 78-63.
That 15-point winning margin is deceptive: The Gremlins ran the Wykons off the floor, leading by 30 after three quarters before the Wykons really got into it. It truly was no contest and a spanking that will smart for some time.
“You can’t let Houghton get off to that start,” Coach Mike Dallavalle said later. “We’ve seen it time and again. It happened at regionals [last March].
“Credit them. They move quick. We thought we were ready for it, but we weren’t.”
Earlier last week, the Wykons visited district tourney rival Norway and earned a 43-36 win. The Wykons are now 3-1 overall, 1-1 in the West Pac.
Houghton seemed more than ready for the Wykons and took charge right away. While they didn’t have long scoring runs, the Gremlins steadily built a lead and quickly took command.
Jamie Carroll scored their first baskets and later had a two and three on consecutive shots, building the lead to double digits. Houghton led 19-10 after one.
Houghton steadily built its lead. West Iron’s Jaclyn Waara tried to push back, scoring six in the second quarter, but a 16-4 Houghton run led to a 43-23 halftime lead.
The Gremlins kept going in the second half and led 64-34 after three. “Once they get a lead like that,” Dallavalle noted, “they just keep piling it on.”
On defense, Houghton used a tight zone to make it hard for West Iron to get inside. That forced WIC to shoot from outside, and they struggled from outside, making just 1 of 18 three-pointers all night.
“When you’re playing a team that defends so well,” said Dallavalle, “we kind of tend to rush a lot of shots instead of making an extra pass. We forced some threes that weren’t there.”
Houghton had no such trouble, hitting 49% of their twos and threes in the first half (18 of 37) to the Wykons’ 26% (10 of 38). For the game, Houghton shot 41% to West Iron’s 29%.
“Houghton’s transition offense was picture-perfect,” Dallavalle said. “Even when I thought we got back, we weren’t—they would make two passes and get a very high percentage shot.”
West Iron even struggled to get its fast-break transition game working—because the Gremlins got back swiftly and were ready for them. “We had to run a half-court game, because they were already there.”
The Wykons made the score a lot more respectable in the fourth quarter. Once they got in the bonus, they did well at the free throw line (22 of 31 for the game).
They also played with more fire on offense and got results. Joanna Pellizzer scored 12 of her team-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Kylee Erickson had seven of her 14. Waara finished with 16, with six in both the second and fourth quarters.
“The way Jaclyn and Joanna and Kylee played and Alexis [Heimerl] and Megan [Miatech] on the boards, they were aggressive, fighting for every rebound, driving to the basket, stealing balls, tipping balls.
“We didn’t have that urgency early in the game. When you play Houghton, you have to play with that urgency for four quarters—not one.”
Carroll’s 24 led the Gremlins, with nine in both the first and third quarters—she was 10 of 19 from the floor, including some outside shots. Taylor Dillinger scored 17, and Hannah Hill added 10.
West Iron had a slight edge in rebounds, 54-50. Pellizzer and Alexis Heimerl both had eight boards, and Miatech added seven. Waara had four assists.
At Norway, the Knights led 10-9 after the first quarter, but West Iron took charge with an 11-2 second quarter. The Wykons led 20-12 at halftime and kept going from there.
“They’re a good defensive team,” said Dallavalle. “In the first quarter, they made us rush. We were throwing up shots that weren’t there.”
In the second quarter, the Wykons picked up the pace. “They had trouble rotating over and defending in transition.”
Waara led the Wykons with 20 points, 11 in the fourth quarter. Shannon Koski added 12.
Koski and Pellizzer both had six rebounds, and Heimerl and Erickson had five each. Waara, Pellizzer and Aho all had three assists. Heimerl had two blocks. Both teams shot 30% for the night.
The coach noted Erickson’s job on defending the Knights’ Megan Kangas, holding her to nine points. “Kangas is kind of their key to making everything go, and Kylee just shut her down.”
• The Wykons hosted Kingsford on Dec. 19, their final game before the holiday break. They return to action at Hancock on Jan. 3, and their next home game is against Forest Park on Jan. 6.
Wykons 9 11 8 15 -- 43
Knights 10 2 8 16 -- 36
Wykons 10 13 11 29 -- 63
Gremlins 19 24 21 14 -- 78