HOUGHTON - The Houghton girls basketball team lost all five senior starters from last year's 22-1 squad, essentially hitting the restart button after a 13th consecutive district title.
The Gremlins came out flying in their trademark style Tuesday night, blowing Baraga out of the Houghton gym with a 42-13 halftime lead and 68-33 final.
Pressing and breaking for 32 minutes, the program coach Julie Filpus built continues to roll.
"The girls came out with good intensity and they came out wanting to compete," Filpus said.
"Overall we had some really good runs. There are things we want to clean up defensively, we committed too many fouls. But we are very happy to start."
Behind seven points from junior forward Elisa Jurmu, Houghton pushed the advantage to 19-4 in the game's opening seven minutes.
The second quarter produced more of the same, with senior starting guard Alexa Johnson exploding for eight points in three straight possessions to give the Gremlins a 29-point halftime advantage. Baraga scored seven points in the second period.
Vikings coach Mariah Dunham wasn't too worked up about the final margin, however, as she viewed the loss as an excellent way to shape her team moving forward.
"What's funny is we want that to be our style as well," Dunham said. "Fast break, get in your face on defense. And I love this program, the way they do everything from bottom up. I talked to coach Filpus a bit about how you build that because they are so fundamentally sound. They can all pass, dribble, shoot, just all the basketball I.Q. stuff."
Filpus has built the Gremlins this way with help from the JV, freshmen and even eighth grade programs.
She has been able to (nearly) seamlessly reload year after year as the bedrocks of the Houghton program are taught at every level.
"Actually, even in our eighth grade we start emphasizing fast break and some of those principles," Filpus said. "Then the freshman and JV teams try to run identical to what we run at their levels which is very helpful.
"It probably starts coming out in the sophomore year. And you hope as they transition from sophomores to juniors at the varsity level it becomes even more of an instinct."
All nine Houghton varsity players scored Tuesday with Jurmu's 20 points leading the way. Where last year it was Taylor Dillinger, Joey Carroll, Hannah Hill and Adeline Grier-Welch leading the way, Jurmu, Blaire Zenner (seven rebounds, four blocks), Taylor's younger sister Sydney (seven steals) and Johnson (10 points) will all be threats on the fast break this season.
Jurmu in particular was a force against the Lady Vikings, gliding to the hoop for layup after layup as she beat the defense consistently on the fast break.
"Elisa is a competitor," Filpus said. "And we are replacing five starters but Elisa was a good player for us last year as a sophomore. We will rely on her heavily and her intensity rubs off on everybody."