ONTONAGON - Brooke Turin and the Gladiators made sure their coach got to celebrate at home Monday night.
Dick Franti picked up his 500th girls basketball win in a 58-46 victory over Chassell. Turin, a senior, scored 30 points to lead all scorers on a night the Panthers would not go away in hopes Franti would celebrate on a different night.
Franti received a plaque in a postgame ceremony after fans chanted "500 wins!"
"I think that's awesome," Turin said. "I like playing for him a lot. He's taught me a lot through my years and he made me the basketball player I am."
Franti stands at 500-220 in his girls career that started in the 1982 season at Bergland and switched to Ontonagon after two seasons with the Vikings. He finished 245-147 as a boys coach at Bergland and Ontonagon for 18 years. He chose the girls coaching job over the boys position when the MHSAA moved the girls season to the winter in 2007-08.
He is just the third U.P. girls coach to get to 500 wins, according to the MHSAA website. Former Ewen-Trout Creek coach Nancy Osier is the all-time leader in the U.P. at 582 (1973-08). Paul Polfus of Carney-Nadeau (1979-05) finished at 502 wins.
"Basically it means I've been around a long time and we've had a lot of pretty good teams," Franti said. "I guess one thing I'd say I'm proud of is that out of those 32 years, there were only two teams that did not have a winning record. I'm proud of that. I hope the players are, too. They're the ones who do it. I don't shoot. I don't rebound. I don't play defense.
"It really is a testament to the kids and the community that they've been able to put out those kinds of kids, those kinds of players."
Chassell made Ontonagon sweat it out much of the night.
The Gladiators led just 27-23 at the half and Chassell got to within two quickly, 29-27.
Back-to-back 3-point plays by Turin put Ontonagon up 35-27 with 4:29 left in the third quarter. Ontonagon maintained that lead into the fourth quarter, up eight, 40-32. Chassell came as close as six points with 2:11 remaining, 50-44. But Turin hit seven free throws down the stretch to finally pull away.
Turin was 16 of 21 at the free throw line in the game, including 10 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
"She really cashed in at the free throw line," Franti said. "We really needed them because every time we started to get a little away from them, they'd hit a three or they'd drive and get a three-point play. We just couldn't handle success there long enough to feel comfortable until maybe the last four minutes."
Ontonagon hasn't coasted to very many wins this season, but it is 11-7 and has wrapped up second place in the CCC.
"That's the kind of team we have this year. they have to work for everything they get," Franti said. "I thought in the first half, Chassell was outhustling us. In the second half, we equaled their intensity and that helped."
Turin thought the key to the game was Ontonagon's offense.
"We were playing terrible defense and we couldn't get many rebounds," she said. "But I guess we worked pretty hard on offense to stay in the lead the whole time."
Kirsten Daavettila led Chassell (5-14) with 16 points.
"The girls they played really hard," Chassell coach Brandi Hainault said. "We couldn't get a free throw to go in. We missed a lot of layups and bunnies that I should have went in."
Chassell was aware that Franti was at win No. 499.
"We tried to stop it, but it didn't go our way. No offense to him," Hainault said. "I'm happy for him. He's a great coach. He deserves to have the cake and celebration. That's an accomplishment and something he'll get to keep forever."
Osier said Franti loves basketball and coaching and is quite the competitor.
"Good for Dick that's he's hitting that level," Osier said Monday afternoon. "He's put in a lot of hard work and time over the years. Happy for him. It's a thrill. I think it's a recognition of all the hard work and time you put into it over the years."
Osier hit 500 wins in the fall of 2002. Asked if 500 is the gold standard in high school basketball, she said 300 wins is a big deal itself.
"When you get to 300, that's a big accomplishment," Osier said. "When you hit 500, you're past the gold standard. You're getting, what is it in the music industry? Platinum. You're getting into an area where's not a lot of that."
Franti has won 20 conference titles (WestPAC and CCC), 14 districts and four regionals and appeared in three state semifinals (1988, 2009, 2010) and one state final (1988).
He'll try for win No. 501 Wednesday when Ontonagon (11-7, 8-2) heads to Ironwood for a non-conference game.