HOUGHTON - After missing two games with a concussion, Ashlyn Kero was cleared to play for UPSSA Class ABC No. 3-ranked Houghton in time for Thursday's showdown with No. 1 Marquette.
They might want to bring all the Gremlins in to be checked out today because on the floor, Houghton's offense was unconscious for most of the night. Kero made six of the Gremlins' 13 3-pointers and equaled a career high with 22 points as Houghton held off Marquette 74-65.
"We can play like this every game if we shoot and this shouldn't be a surprise for anyone that we can like that because we've seen it in practice and we know we can shoot like that. If we do that, we're going to just keep going," Kero said.
Houghton finished 13-for-21 from outside the arc and 6-of-9 in the first half, making their first four in the game's opening 3:14. The Gremlins led 22-6 after the first possession of the second quarter, but they had a fast start when the teams met last week in Marquette as well. That night, Houghton got into frontcourt foul trouble and Marquette took the game over inside. Thursday, the Gremlins found shots to answer every Marquette run.
Houghton coach Julie Filpus noted how in a way similar to Monday's home win over Calumet, the Gremlins are penalizing teams that double down on leading scorer Elisa Jurmu.
"You have to credit Elisa for being such a relentless offensive player because I think she's been drawing a lot of double and triple teams and I think that's giving us a little bit of extra time on the perimeter. I think we're starting to make that extra pass to the corner, to the wing, and the doubles and triples on Jurmu are opening things up for everybody," she said.
Houghton 74, Marquette 65
Marquette 6 21 26 12 - 65
Houghton 20 19 25 10 - 74
Marquette - Hunter Viitala 34, Shayla Huebner 4, Martha Storm 3, Destiny Beckwith 12, Elizabeth Kurin 2, Kirsten Iwanski 7, Madalyne Connon 3; FT: 8-14; Fouls: 14; Fouled out: Kurin; 3-point field goals: Viitala 3, Kurin 2.
Houghton - Noelle Polakowski 9, Ashlyn Kero 22, Sydney Dillinger 8, Kelsie Richards 12, Elisa Jurmu 16, Morgan Colling 2, Tawna Ryynanen 5; FT: 9-15; Fouls: 17; Fouled out: Kero; 3-point field goals: Polakowski 3, Kero 6, Richards 1, Jurmu 2, Ryynanen 1.
Marquette put its potency on display, quickly closing to within seven in the second quarter, but Kero hit a 3 and Houghton eventually bumped it back to a 14-point game before settling at 39-27 up at the half.
"Their defensive intensity out of the gates was really good, so you've got to credit that," Marquette coach Ben Smith said. "However, we're going to have to score on good defenses if we expect to win games against good teams and in the first half, I don't think it was quite good enough."
With Marquette down 17 early in the third quarter, MSHS junior Hunter Viitala dragged her team back into contention, scoring seven times in less than four minutes to make it a seven-point game again.
But, with 1:09 left in the frame, guess what happened? Kero hit a 3.
Kero, along with Sydney Dillinger and others, tried to corral Viitala, but her quickness and tenacity made it tough.
"She's really quick and that was a huge thing," Kero said. "She knows how to get open and how to make it to the basket."
Houghton slowed the game down in the fourth with moderate success, and the nine-point final margin was as close as the Redettes got to avoiding back-to-back losses after a 16-0 start.
"I wish we could play them five times a year and we could schedule teams that force you to make a play every single possession, and then there's no, 'Well, I went kinda hard and it worked, so I'll just do that,'" Smith said.
Jurmu finished with 16 points and Kelsie Richards 12. The Gremlins (17-2) complete their regular season Monday at Hancock and are guaranteed at least a share of the WestPAC with a win.
Destiny Beckwith, with 12, was the only other Redette to score in double figures. Marquette hosts Negaunee on Tuesday.