Houghton Gremlins edge Negaunee Miners in boys basketball, 44-43

HOUGHTON — It was, in the words of Houghton boys basketball coach Jared Lawson, “a quality win over a quality opponent.” 

Lawson was speaking about his team’s 44-43 win over the Negaunee Miners on Tuesday night.

“Any time you can beat a Mid-Peninsula (Conference) team, you’ve accomplished something,” the Gremlins coach said afterward. “I think it’s a real important win for us in terms of confidence for the rest of the season.”

To earn the victory, the Orange and Black had to sweat out the final 13 seconds when the ball was being contested under the Houghton basket.

The Gremlins emerged with the ball after the scrum, securing their third win in six outings.

After battling from behind nearly the entire game, the Gremlins took a 42-40 lead with 48 seconds left when George Butvilas converted a steal into a driving layup.

After Negaunee misfired from the field, Elliot Majlessi was fouled with 24 seconds to go. Majlessi converted both ends of the one-and-one situation for a 44-40 lead.

That was enough to counter a 3-pointer by Jason Waterman of Negaunee with 18 seconds remaining.

“Those two free throws by Elliot (Majlessi) were big,” Lawson noted. “That gave us a four-point cushion and you need that because of the threat of a 3-pointer.”

Coach Dan Waterman said his team seemed to relax a bit after a promising start.

“We scored 21 points in the first quarter and only 22 after that,” he said. “I don’t know what it was. They (Gremlins) seemed to want it a little more. But give Houghton credit, they played hard.”

Six points by Jakson Sager and two 3s from Jake Ennett in the opening quarter propelled the Miners to a 21-8 margin.

But nine points by Brad Sirard of Houghton in the second quarter helped reduce the Negaunee advantage to 26-21 by intermission.

Lawson said his team tried a different offensive approach in the final three quarters.

“Instead of attacking from outside, we used an inside-out style,” he said. “I thought our guys showed some good patience tonight.”

The third quarter saw the teams battle back and forth. A 3-pointer by Sirard cut the margin to 33-30 by quarter’s end, though Negaunee continued to lead.

A 7-2 run midway through the final quarter highlighted by a 3 from the top of the circle by Sirard gave Houghton a 40-35 spread.

But a 3 from the corner by Ennett and a basket by Luke Skewis brought the Miners back.

Sirard, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, topped the victors with 20 points and also took down nine rebounds.

Butvilas was next with 14 points and four assists, while Majlessi contributed four points and five assists.

Waterman paced the Miners with 15 points and four assists. Ennett added 12 points on four 3s.

Dan Waterman said his team was aware of Sirard’s outside shooting.

“He’s a real good player and he plays under control,” the Negaunee coach said. “Real tough to defend.”

Houghton goes to L’Anse on Monday, while the 4-3 Miners travel to Escanaba on Thursday.