GRAYLING — Grayling’s girls basketball team used a strong first half to hold off Houghton Lake, 40-34 in the first round of the MHSAA Division 3 district Tuesday night at Grayling.
It was the Vikings’ second consecutive win, and improved their record to 7-14.
But it took some doing, as the Bobcats came back on the Vikings in the second half and nearly stole the game away.
A few timely steals, and some clutch free throws down the stretch, enabled the Vikings to weather the storm and move on in the tournament.
The Vikings jumped out to a 15-2 lead after the first quarter, and kept the pressure on Houghton Lake with an 11-3 advantage in the second to build a 26-5 lead at the half.
Houghton Lake came back in the second half, but the Vikings had an 11-9 in the third period and went into the fourth with a 37-14 cushion. The Bobcats outscored the Vikings, 20-3 in the fourth quarter.
Grayling was led in scoring by Jasmine Youngblood with 15 points, Rylan Finstrom contributed 12 and Cali D’Amour added five points.
“We played really great the first half, put a lot of pressure on them and denied open looks,” Vikings coach Daniel Brandt said. “We only gave up two actual buckets.
“The third quarter we came out a little bit flat. We knew they were going to get some shots off, and change some things up. So, we expected that.
“Fourth quarter, I was playing with a 20-point and looking to jsut try to slow the game down. That’s just not our game. That’s not who we are.
“Our offense is driven by our defense, so if we try to slow down offensively, it just slows us down defensively. I feel we got into a rut there, where we just weren’t moving the ball and became sluggish.”
Houghton Lake crept back into the game with some 3-point buckets, but the Vikings cranked it back up and were able to get some timely steals and takeaways, and force the Bobcats into some tougher shots.
The Vikings now play Manton in the district semifinals at Grayling on Wednesday night.