Girls basketball: Late fortunes help Houghton edge Wykons

West Iron County's Eden Golliher shoots over Houghton's Kendra Monette on Friday in Houghton. (Bryce Derouin/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — As she walked out to defend the inbounds pass, Houghton’s Kendra Monette had one thing on her mind: read the eyes.

Tied at 53 with 4.2 seconds remaining, West Iron County took the ball out along the baseline underneath Houghton’s basket with a chance to win the game.

But as WIC attempted a long pass, Monette deflected the ball into the air, came down with the steal and put up a shot as she was fouled. She calmly converted both free throws and WIC (3-2, 1-2 West-PAC) missed a winning 3-pointer to give Houghton a 55-53 West-PAC victory Friday in Houghton.

“I was able to read where she was going,” Monette said of the steal. “She was looking in one spot, kind of, so it was easy to read. I just jumped when I thought it was right.”

Monette has captured individual titles at each of the last three U.P. Track and Field Finals, making her a natural candidate to defend the inbounds pass given her athletic ability. The steal was the type of play that’s been lacking during Houghton’s two-game losing streak where defensive lapses became too common.

“We just talked to the girls how this isn’t the first and it won’t be the last time that a win or loss comes down to defense,” Filpus said. “Kendra was just on it, didn’t quit and made a great play at the end.”

Following Monette’s free throws, WIC threw a deep pass to a streaking Anna Malmquist, who got off a clean look for 3 at the top of the key. The ball bounced off the backboard and rolled inside the rim before bouncing out as the buzzer sounded.

“It was a great look,” WIC coach Eric Shamion said. “You couldn’t ask for a better 3-point look.”

Monette’s free throws put Houghton (2-2, 1-0 West-PAC) ahead for the first time in the fourth quarter. Once the Gremlins tied it on two free throws from senior Kara Pietila, the teams alternated baskets with Malmquist and junior Katarina Serbentas scoring for WIC, and Pietila and Monette each knocking down jumpers. Monette hit the game-tying jumper off the glass from 10 feet away, 53-53, with 1:28 left in the game.

Pietila led all scorers with 28 points and found success getting low post-up position on the block for high-percentage looks while outrunning the WIC defense to score transition layups. She finished 12 of 22 from the field (54 percent).

“Kara has put a lot of time in during the offseason,” Filpus said. “She sprints the floor, which creates opportunities. She’s also a very intelligent basketball player, and I think when you have that combination, you can really do some damage.”

Houghton shot 14 of 28 from the field in the second half after going 9 for 30 in the opening half. The better shooting percentage was due to Houghton’s ability to get out and score layups repeatedly in transition.

“Their transition worked excellent for them, and we worked on that in practice,” Shamion said. “They get the ball up fast and burned us for several layups.”

WIC sophomore Eden Golliher led the Wykons with 22 points and 14 rebounds. After WIC trailed Houghton 14-9 after the first quarter, Golliher converted 4 of 6 shots for eight points in the quarter to give her team a 27-21 halftime lead. For the game, the 6-foot forward made 10 of 18 shots as she consistently was able to attack the basket off the dribble.

“Eden has a way to get to the hoop and finishing. She has a soft left-handed shot,” Shamion said. “She handles the ball for us, can play inside and is just a nice player to have on your team.”

WIC made 22 of 63 shots for the game (35 percent) and held a 45-37 edge on the boards.

Next, Houghton hosts L’Anse on Tuesday.

West Iron 9 18 14 12 — 53

Houghton 14 7 17 17 — 55

WEST IRON COUNTY (53): Malmquist 10, Serbentas 4, Nelson 8, Laturi 7, Golliher 22, Stine 2. F: 12. FT: 9-18. 3PT: None.

HOUGHTON (55): Pietila 28, Ryynanen 2, Klein 3, Monette 14, Froberg 8. F: 14. FT: 8-14. 3PT: Klein.