Calumet rallies to defeat Maple City Glen Lake, earns semifinal berth

4/6/2021 | Game Recap | By James Cook
Houghton Lake

E lli Djerf knows exactly what to look forward to Wednesday.

“Getting a better hotel,” the Calumet senior said after leading the Copper Kings to the Final Four with a 73-69 win Monday over Glen Lake. “We’ve been staying at this Super Eight and we’ve all been looking forward to a nice hotel.”

Monday’s Division 3 quarterfinal at Houghton Lake earned Calumet (19-0) a berth in the Final Four at Michigan State University’s Breslin Student Events Center.

Djerf, a manager in sixth grade for the last Calumet team to advance to the Final Four back in 2015, goes in uniform this time around. She almost tripled the Super Eight, putting up 23 on the Lakers, who came into the game undefeated at 19-0.

“It was so weird,” Djerf said of her 2015 trip to Breslin. “It felt like everything was so much bigger and you looked around and you couldn’t tell who was in the stands, nothing.”

No issues with that Monday in Houghton Lake’s gym. Djerf scored 10 of her game-high 23 in the fourth quarter.

The two teams that looked like carbon copies — multiple tall players, pressing, zone defense, running seven deep — and played to a back-and-forth game that saw the Copper Kings lead by eight in the second quarter, only to have the Lakers rally for a one-point halftime advantage and roll that momentum into the third quarter to take a 12-point lead on Hailey Helling’s baseline 3-pointer midway through the stanza.

“We started watching film on these guys,” Calumet head coach Matt Laho said, “and I’m like, ‘Hey, you know what, they run a 2-2-1, we run a 2-2-1. They like to fall into their zone and we play zone.’ So it’s just a matter of who does it better.”

Calumet junior Marybeth Halonen scored six points in a row for the Copper Kings, spurring an early fourth-quarter run that put Calumet up 65-57.

Halonen joined Djerf and Alexis Strom to give the Copper Kings three scorers the Lakers needed to worry about. That helped take the pressure off Djerf and Strom.

“It takes tons of pressure off, knowing that your teammates are going to score and get in there with you,” Djerf said. “You never feel too much pressure. You can just play the game.”

Laho said he pulled Halonen from the game at one point to say he needed her to step up to help Djerf and Strom with the scoring load.

“I think she started rushing a little bit,” Laho said. “So I took her out, talked to her on the bench, told her, ‘Your teammates need you, I said. There’s two girls right now that are absolutely killing themselves on the floor with between Alexis and Elli and you need to step up and show them that you can play, too.’ And she came out with a determination to score. They left her open on the three-point line and she knocked a couple of huge threes down. That’s a big part of what changed this game.”

The Lakers clawed back within four on Grace Fosmore’s bucket with 56 ticks left, and Calumet missed six of nine free throws in the final 1:02 to keep the door open. But the Lakers couldn’t capitalize. Maddie Bradford hit a triple as time expired for the final four-point margin.

“Calumet, we knew was going to be tough,” Glen Lake head coach Jason Bradford said. “We watched their game against St. Ignace and we knew it was going to be tough.”

After Djerf’s 23 points, Strom scored 16, Halonen 15, Lizzie Torola seven and Jana Loukus and Helen Beiring each six.

“Honestly, I think it’s leadership that stepped up,” Laho said. “Elli Djerf is one. There were a couple times in the timeout, she grabbed a few of her teammates and was just like, ‘Hey, we need you guys to step up,’ like, ‘We can do this, but I need you guys to come with me on this’ and she dragged him along and they picked it up and I think that was the difference.”

A Gofundme page raised money to help pay for the Copper Kings’ nearly 400-mile trip to Houghton Lake, including a charter bus.

Up next, a 500-mile trip to East Lansing for Wednesday’s 12:30 p.m. semifinal against Kent City (20-0).

Djerf, only the third Calumet girls player to reach 1,000 career points, returns to Breslin as a player this time.

“It feels so good,” Djerf said. “I think only one other time, maybe two that a Calumet team has made it this far. A bunch of our sisters did it back in 2015, so it feels super good.”

Glen Lake also spread out its production, with Grace Bradford lead the way with 14 points, Ruby Hogan adding 13 and Maddie Bradford and Fosmore each scoring a dozen. Jessica Robbins pitched in nine, Hailey Helling seven and Emma Korson two.

The Lakers lose Helling, Fosmore and Korson from their core rotation of seven players.

“Like I told the seniors and the girls, I said, ‘You had a heck of a season, 19-0, coming down here, only four teams left to after this.’ But it still hurts. The girls were playing with heart and emotion.”

Helling returned from a severe ankle sprain that forced her to miss all of regionals, and started at point guard in what ended up as her final basketball game as a Laker.

The four-year starter drew assists on each of the Lakers’ first two buckets, both to Fosmore underneath.

“She had a tough road,” Bradford said. “She did a lot of work and a lot of extra things (to get back). She finds that open girl, and she’s a true team player. She doesn’t care how many points she has. It’s just helping the team to win.”

Glen Lake’s last four playoff opponents came into their matchup against the Lakers with a combined one loss. Glen Lake dispatched of the first three by at least 22 points.

“I always say it comes down to whoever works harder, whoever wants it more,” Djerf said. “And I think we wanted it more.”

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