CHASSELL - After nearly blowing Lake Linden-Hubbell off the court in the first half, the Chassell Panthers had to hold on in the second half to punch their ticket in the Class D district finals.
Ahead by a 28-10 score at the break, the Panthers were outscored by LL-H by a 25-10 margin in the second half for an eventual 38-35 victory.
It wasn't until Macy Holombo hit a pair of clutch free throws with 12.6 seconds remaining for the Panthers that they could draw a deep breath. A CHS defensive stand kept the Lakes at bay after that.
Chassell's Karli Michaels drives past a pair of Lake Linden-Hubbell defenders during Wednesday night's Class D semifinal in Chassell. Michaels scored a game-high 17 points as the Panthers outlasted the Lakes, 38-35. (Paul Peterson photo)
"It wasn't the way I wanted us to finish the game," CHS coach Brandi Hainault said. "But the girls were tested at the end ... and they came through. That was nice to see."
Lakes coach Timm Gast gave his team full credit for the gutty comeback effort.
"I just told them at the half to keep playing hard, that something good would come out of it," Gast said. "I'm very proud of their effort."
LL-Hubbell 4 6 8 17 - 35
Chassell 13 15 4 6 - 38
Lake Linden-Hubbell -- Erin Gast 6, Carli Ongie 3, Sarah Audette 17, Peyton Gast 5, Vivica Nelson 4. FT: 12-27; Rebounds: 22 (E. Gast 8); Fouls: 16; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Audette 1.
Chassell -- Kirsten Daavettila 9, Maddie Huhta 3, Karli Michaels 17, Julia Pietila 5, Macy Holombo 2, Sara Kilpela 2. FT: 8-14; Rebounds: 28 (Daavettila 7); Fouls: 22; Fouled out: None; 3-point field goals: Michaels 5.
Karli Michaels was mostly responsible for the big Chassell lead at the intermission, knocking down five three-point baskets.
"Karli finally just shot the ball instead of thinking about it," Hainault said. "We knew she was capable of doing that, it was nice to see her play like that."
But the always-hustling Sarah Audette lit a spark in the Lakes in the third quarter by scoring six quick points to help her team draw closer at 32-18.
Audette hit six more points in the final stanza, the same number Erin Gast managed to get LL-H within striking distance with a 17-6 advantage.
Foul trouble on Holombo and Michaels also slowed the Panthers in the second portion of the contest.
"The foul situation was defintely a factor in the second in the second half," Hainault said. "We ended up playing a little timid and they (Lakes) got back into the game."
Gast, whose team suffered through an injury-riddled season, said many of his younger players learned under fire.
"I think they got a chance to learn this season, and it will benefit us next season," he said.
Michaels paced the 6-15 winners with 17 points - all but two coming in the first half. Kirsten Daavettila played a key role with nine points and seven rebounds in addition to an effective defensive job on Audette.
The 7-15 Lakes were led by Audette with 17 points and six steals. Erin Gast added six points and eight rebounds.
A miserly 12-of-27 showing at the free throw line by LL-H was another big factor in the outcome.
Hainault said her team faces a big challenge in CCC champion Dollar Bay in the finals.
"We know they're a good basketball team," she said. "But we're going to go in there and, hopefully, play well enough to beat them."