Chassell defeats Ontonagon for 19th win

Chassell’s Milly Allen comes down with a rebound in front of Ontonagon’s Jenny Labyak in Ontonagon. Chassell won 57-43. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

ONTONAGON — For a moment, the Chassell Panthers looked vulnerable, which is a considerable statement when you take into account how they’ve managed to roll team after team, night after night, winning their last 18 games by an average of 32 points.

But oddly enough, Ontonagon’s 2-2-1 press confounded the Panthers, and the Gladiators were able to cut the deficit to single digits in the final minutes. So how did Chassell respond with its first semblance of adversity since November? The Panthers shut out Ontonagon the rest of the way, added three baskets for insurance and earned a 57-43 Copper Mountain Conference victory to finish the season 19-1 (15-0) Monday in Ontonagon.

Senior Milly Allen led Chassell with 17 points and seven rebounds on a night when she reached the 1,000-point mark for her career. Senior Sydney Danison added 16 points and nine rebounds.

Ontonagon junior Holly Wardynski finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

“We really haven’t seen a test like that besides L’Anse, which obviously didn’t go in our favor,” Chassell coach Brandi Hainault said of her team’s lone loss, which happened on Nov. 28. “It was good to get that pressure and kind of put them back on their heels to make them realize they have to work for everything they get.”

Chassell entered the fourth with a 43-22 lead, seemingly poised for another blowout victory. With nothing to lose, Ontonagon coach Dick Franti had his team pick Chassell up full court in a 2-2-1 press. The Panthers struggled, turning it over nine times in the quarter while Ontonagon opened the fourth on a 16-4 run. Ontonagon junior Fahren Kolpack converted a free throw to cut Chassell’s lead to 47-38 with 3:22 remaining in the game.

“We didn’t give up,” Franti said. “We could have folded our tents and quit when we were 15 down, but we switched to that press to give them a little bit of a different look and by God, it came through for us.

“Chassell more often than not handles the ball very well … I think maybe we caught them off guard with it since we hadn’t used it all night.”

Later, Ontonagon got the deficit to 51-43 when a steal in the backcourt by Kolpack turned into a layup for junior Jenny Labyak with 1:15 remaining in the game.

“We haven’t really seen a press, and they’re usually pretty good and composed,” Hainault said of her team. “I think they were just a little rattled tonight. Offensively, we didn’t do a good job of putting the ball in the hole outside. Sydney did a great job of rebounding and putting it in, but we weren’t shooting our outside game like normal, and I think that kind of razzled them. But it’s Ontonagon, and it’s always a tough team to play.”

Overall, Chassell made 24 of 57 shots (42 percent), inlacing 4 of 12 from 3-point range (33 percent). The Panthers struggled early on, converting on just 5 of 16 attempts (31 percent), as Ontonagon led 13-12 after the opening quarter.

Despite the struggles, Chassell’s early-game highlight came when Allen drove baseline and converted a layup for her 1,000th-career point with 1:47 left in the first quarter. She entered the night needing just five points to reach the milestone and started her scoring off with a corner 3.

“She sees the floor well and understands the game and works hard,” Hainault said of Allen. “She has really grown from freshman year to now, and you can see that maturity in her. It really helps with the team.”

Hainault decided to keep Allen’s chase of 1,000 points a secret. It wasn’t until Franti called timeout and there was an announcement made over the PA system that Allen knew she reached the milestone.

“It was pretty surprising. I had family come from all over, but I didn’t think about that,” Allen said. “It’s just kind of a pat on the back for all the hard work over the years.”

Following the closely-contested opening quarter, Chassell blew the game open with its defense, limiting Ontonagon to just nine points total in the second and third quarters. The Gladiators made just 3 of 24 shot attempts (12 percent) during that span.

“Chassell has good man-to-man pressure, and they help well,” Franti said. “So your driving lanes get cut off pretty easily and pretty quickly. No doubt about it, even when (Hainault) hasn’t had the best of teams, they’ve always put pretty good defensive pressure on us.”

Ontonagon (10-9, 10-4) finished 14 of 50 from the field (28 percent) and held a 36-34 rebounding edge. The Gladiators turned it over 21 times against Chassell’s pressure.

Next, Ontonagon hosts Hancock on Thursday. Chassell is off until Monday, when it travels to face Jeffers in a district opener.

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Chassell 12 15 16 14 — 57

Ontonagon 13 6 3 21 — 43

Chassell — Pietila 5, Hokenson 9, Allen 17, Danison 16, Markham 2, Rautiola 8. F: 12; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 5-7; 3-point field goals: Allen 2, Hokenson, Pietila.

Ontonagon — Weisinger 2, Labyak 7, Laingren 6, Lutz 10, Kolpack 5, Wardynski 13. F: 10; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 10-17; 3-point field goals: Laingren 2, Lutz 2, Wardynski.