No. 2 Chassell’s defense leads to 62-35 win over No. 5 E-TC

Chassell's Jenna Pietila defends Ewen-Trout Creek's Elise Besonen during the first half Tuesday in Chassell. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

CHASSELL — Brandi Hainault knew she would have to make adjustments to compensate as Milly Allen attempted to play on a bum ankle a day after suffering the injury. Whether that meant trying to protect her or a switch in the game plan for No. 5 Ewen-Trout Creek, changes had to be made. 

So instead of utilizing the team’s signature full-court trapping defense — where Allen is at the forefront — Hainault decided to have her team sit back in a half-court man defense.  As it turns out, Chassell can be just as stifling without a press.

No. 2 Chassell limited No. 5 E-TC to 25 percent shooting (14-55) in a 62-35 Copper Mountain Conference victory between two top-ranked teams, Tuesday in Chassell. 

Allen led the way with 14 points, while senior Sydney Danison added 13 points and 12 rebounds. 

“Milly’s not 100 percent, and she’s a big part of our full-court pressure so I didn’t want her ankle to be in jeopardy,” Hainault said. “That was really the decision behind it. I just didn’t want it to be able to affect the rest of the season. We want it to be able to heal quick.”

Chassell’s defensive keys revolved around E-TC freshman Elise Besonen, who was the first eighth-grader to earn All-U.P. honors after being named Class D Second Team last season. Senior Jenna Pietila drew the defensive assignment of Besonen and consistently stayed on her hip throughout the night while running through off-ball double screens. If Besonen was able to get a step on Pietila off the dribble, the remaining Chassell wing defenders collapsed, while Danison and fellow senior Sophie Huhta were there to protect the rim. 

Besonen finished with six points. Freshman Abbie LeGault had 10 points to lead E-TC.

“Our main focus was to make sure we could stop (Besonen),” Hainault said. “Jenna did a great job on Elise … (Pietila) just has that drive. You tell her to do something, and she does it. She has an instinct about her that allows her to read and respond to players, and that’s what makes her a great defender.”

Both teams were on the second night of a back-to-back, with Chassell (7-1, 6-0) cruising past Dollar Bay by 31 on Monday. As for E-TC, the offensive struggles continued once again, just as when the team fell 42-38 in a loss to Bessemer on Monday. 

E-TC (5-3, 2-2) opened the first quarter by making just 3 of 14 shot attempts as Chassell closed the quarter on a 10-0 run for a 17-7 advantage. 

“We weren’t hitting shots. We got some good looks, especially in the first quarter when we were going back-and-forth, but we just weren’t making them,” E-TC coach Jacky Besonen said. “Their defense is suffocating. They’re really good on their help-side, so if you look into the post, there’s really not a lot there. That compounding with not making open shots was just a domino effect.”

Offensively, Chassell posed issues with its size of Danison and Huhta down low and the guards’ ability to consistently attack driving lanes. Chassell shot 26 of 54 (48 percent) from the field and held a 40-29 edge in rebounding. 

“Chassell really hurt us with their quickness and dribble drive, because once they were able to break us down there, they were able to dish and find a shooter or drop it off to their forwards,” Besonen said.

Allen also appeared to settle in after she became acclimated to her injury. She scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half, including eight in the third quarter when she made 3 of 4 shots; her second 3 of the third gave Chassell a 42-25 lead. 

Despite suffering the injury less than 24 hours before Tuesday’s game, Allen was not about to miss a game between two top-5 teams, according to Hainault. Allen spent much of pre-game warm-ups getting her ankle taped and had to have it re-taped between the first and second quarters. But the All-U.P. Class D Second Teamer from a season ago still managed to make 6 of 11 shots. 

“She’s tough-minded and was determined to play,” Hainault said. “I was surprised about how much she was able to do running-wise, so that’s nice to see.”

Next, Chassell hosts Wakefield-Marenisco on Friday. E-TC goes to Ontonagon on the same day. 

– – –

E-TC 7 10 12 6 — 35

Chassell 17 15 18 12 — 62

E-TC — Berglund 9, LeGault 10, Besonen 6, Cronkright 4, Moilanen 4, Witt 2. F: 9; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 6-7; 3-point field goals: Berglund. 

Chassell — Pietila 10, Hokenson 6, Huhta 5, Allen 14, Danison 13, Rautiola 8, Goddard 2, Hietila 4. F: 13; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 6-8; 3-point field goals: Allen 2, Pietila 2.