Vikings sophomore enamored with hoops leads local scorers

Vikings sophomore enamored with hoops leads local scorers

DANVILLE — When the 2017-18 girls' basketball season ended, Danville's Mikala Hall graced the top of the area scoring ranks with a 19.4 points-per-game average.

Hall now is hooping it up at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. On Twitter, folks can see her draining halfcourt shots in the Cougars' practices.

So how is it the Vikings, one year later, again boast the local scoring leader?

Because Erin Houpt isn't your average sophomore.

"I've just never seen somebody that is so in love with the game as I have Erin," said Ted Houpt, Erin's father and the Danville boys' basketball coach. "She has to play and she loves to play, and she loves to win."

Erin and her Vikings pals have done plenty of that lately.

Danville (15-14) has roared back from a 4-11 start to its campaign and possesses a No. 7 seed entering today's Class 4A Bloomington Regional quarterfinal versus the eighth-seeded and host Purple Raiders (9-20).

Erin is a big reason why. She's averaging close to 20 points per game. She's maxed out at 43 points, in a double-overtime triumph versus Pana on Jan. 28, to set a Danville single-game scoring record.

And the 5-foot-6 athlete is getting the job done in a variety of ways.

"During the offseason, I shoot on the gun almost every day," Erin said. "My ballhandling has been pretty good this year (too), so I get by people a lot."

Opponents are aware Erin is a threat from three-point range. It seems to run in the family, with older brother Sean, a senior, also a sharpshooter on the state-ranked Vikings boys' club.

But Erin contends she hasn't converted from deep quite as well as she's hoped to.

So she's instead turned to an unlikely source of points, given her size: driving to the basket. Repeatedly.

"I've always just not really cared about contact," Erin said. "I get knocked to the ground a lot, but it doesn't really matter to me."

"She's a competitor," Danville coach Demetric Hightower added. "Seeing her and seeing her smile, you kind of get lost in, 'Oh, she's a nice girl.' ... Behind the smile, it's like an Isaiah Thomas."

Before the Vikings' last two regular-season games, Houpt put up 142 free throws and sank an astounding 83.1 percent of them.

Another nod to her tireless work ethic.

Tireless for Erin, anyway.

"She's the one begging me to stay (in the gym), and I'm the one trying to get out of the gym and go home and sit down," Ted said. "If this is the worst thing I have to deal with as a parent, then I'll be OK."

Erin believes she really fell for basketball around fifth or sixth grade. It helped that Ted was getting into his head coaching gig at Danville, and that Erin got to watch her brother Sean on the hardwood.

Even though Erin also manages tennis talents — she's a reigning News-Gazette All-Area first-team selection — it was only natural hoops won out.

"They're like a basketball family," Hightower said. "She is going to play the game that she loves."

Erin is hopeful that goes beyond tonight's matchup in Bloomington.

She feels the Vikings are in much better position to come out ahead than they were on Dec. 11, when Danville lost 64-54 to the Purple Raiders at home.

"About midway through the season, we started to get very comfortable with each other," she said. "We started to click, and we just started winning games."

Erin isn't the most outspoken individual when it comes to discussing the importance of being on the right side of the scoreboard.

But take it from Dad: That aspect of the game is a huge factor in why Erin works so hard to perfect her craft.

"The 43-point game would've meant nothing if they wouldn't have been able to get the double-overtime win," Ted said. "So even though she might get individual accolades ... it's still a team game, and she understands that."