Houghton girls stuff Baraga

BARAGA — It didn’t take long to see that this season’s Houghton squad has all the makings to be a defensive monster. Length paired with athleticism have always been attributes in Houghton’s pressure man defense, and the Baraga Vikings felt the effects of both on Tuesday.

Baraga turned it over on its first three possessions before finishing with 21 turnovers, as the Gremlins cruised to a 56-30 nonconference win in Baraga.

“You want to come out in the first three or four minutes and make an opponent think that it’s going to be a long night,” Houghton coach Julie Filpus said. “They rose to the challenge of putting pressure on the basketball, and we had some nice steals with hands in the passing lanes. I was very proud with our effort, in that sense.”

Due to the tight on-ball pressure, Baraga was forced to start its offense from as far out as the volleyball line and beyond. The Vikings were rattled, early, throwing the ball out of bounds on their first possession before suffering over-and-back violations on their next two trips on offense.

Baraga shot 14 of 35 from the field (40 percent).

“It’s real difficult because they’re probably the most aggressive team we’ll see all year,” Baraga first-year head coach Tom Goodreau said. “That’s one of Houghton’s trademarks is the aggressive style defense. They’re going to bump you, hit you, but that’s how they play.

“I tried to prepare the girls for it, but they weren’t ready for it tonight.”

While Baraga (0-1) struggled, Houghton (1-0) jumped out to a 9-0 lead thanks to 3s from seniors Harlee Froberg and Kara Pietila and three free throws from senior Mackenzie Klein.

Pietila led Houghton with 21 points, while Froberg added 20 points and was 3 of 5 from 3-point range.

“Twenty-point games aren’t a fluke,” Filpus said. “They put the time in the offseason and nailed the opportunities when they came.”

Pietila also knocked down a 3 as both her and Froberg highlighted their inside-out abilities. They each scored by attacking on the dribble from the perimeter and on post-ups in the paint, all while being efficient in both areas. Pietila converted 10 of 19 shot attempts (53 percent) while Froberg was 7 of 13 (54 percent) to combine for 17 of 32 shooting. As a team, Houghton finished 22 of 49 (45 percent).

“We preach being basketball players. We don’t want a ballhandler, we don’t want a post player or a guard. We want kids to play all over,” Filpus said. “We want the ability for Harlee to post up and for (Kara Pietila) to drain the 3.

“From (Mackenzie) to Kendra (Monette) and Madi (Dillinger), those kids that are our core are all capable.”

Baraga last made it a game when senior Chelsea Pittsley scored two of her team-high nine points to trim Houghton’s lead to 18-11 midway through the second quarter. But the Gremlins responded with a 15-2 run to close the half and spoil the varsity head coaching debut of Goodreau.

“I kind of knew what to expect, but I expected the girls to respond better than what they did,” said Goodreau, who coached two seasons at the JV level under Keith Willis before replacing him after he retired at the end of last season. “I hope as we play more games, they come together more as a team. That was just something that was missing tonight.”

Next, Baraga travels to Ewen-Trout Creek on Thursday, while Houghton hosts L’Anse on Tuesday.