Chassell survives Jeffers’ upset bid, earns 61-48 win

Jeffers’ Ivy Klemett shoots as Chassell’s Lela Rautiola defends Monday in a Class D district opener in Painesdale. (David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette)

PAINESDALE — There is no substitute for senior leadership.

Just ask Chassell coach Brandi Hainault, whose team passed a stern opening round district test versus Jeffers Monday night.

“I think our senior leadership was the big difference tonight,” Hainault said after her team’s 61-48 win over the Jets. “They stepped up and made the plays when we needed them.

“We knew what we were in for tonight. Jeffers is always a tough place to play, and we knew they would come after us hard.”

Case in point came midway through the final quarter. The scrappy Jets, trailing by 14 points late in the third quarter, reduced the Chassell lead to 53-46 on 3-pointers from Ivy Klemett and Cierra Stevens.

That was when Panthers guard Milly Allen hit a runner that was followed by a putback shot in the lane by Sydney Danison. That restored order and Chassell was on its way to its 20th straight win.

Jeffers coach Joe Romano said his team did everything they could to stop the powerful Panthers.

“We played very hard, but we made some mistakes against them,” Romano said. “They (Panthers) are a good, good team and you can’t get away with that.”

The 20-1 Panthers, No. 7 in the state polls, will now prepare for a semifinal match against Baraga on Wednesday night.

Hainault said her team learned a long time ago not to take any team lightly, especially at this time of the year.

“We all know what is at stake,” she said. “This team set certain goals before the season began, and they know they can’t afford to let up on the gas pedal if they’re going to reach them.”

Danison, the 6-foot-2 center, and Allen, the sparkplug point guard certainly did their part. Danison had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Allen added 19 points, seven steals and six assists.

But junior Jenna Pietila did her best work in the second half, scoring 12 of her 16 points.

“I thought Jenna Pietila really made some big baskets for us tonight,” Hainault said. “She played a very nice all-around game.”

The Jets weren’t without senior standouts, either. Ivy Klemett dumped in a team-high 19 points and notched four steals and four assists.

“Tremendous game tonight by Ivy Klemett,” Romano said. “She played hard like a senior should do; all of our seniors played hard.”

Jeffers grabbed a 12-6 lead midway through in the opening period and had its fans on their feet in appreciation. Leah Pennala scored three baskets in the first frame.

Chassell regained its composure with a 15-5 second quarter advantage for a 23-17 halftime lead.

Allen sparked the surge with her hustling defensive play.

“We were really struggling in the first half,” Hainault said. “We couldn’t hit a shot to save our lives, even our free-throw shooting (12 of 29) was really bad.”

The eventual winners led by as manyas 14 points late in the third quarter at 39-24. 

But 3s from Klemett and Stevens cut the margin to 41-33 by quarter’s end.

Danison’s eight points and seven more by Pietila kept Chassell in front until the final Jets surge.

Stevens made three 3-pointers for nine points, while Pennala added eight points and eight rebounds to back up Klemett’s big game.

Jeffers closed at 11-10 on the season.

– – –

Chassell 8 15 19 19 — 61

Jeffers 12 5 16 15 — 48

CHASSELL — Allen 19, Pietila 16, Hokenson 4, Danison 20, Huhta 2. FT: 12-29; Rebounds: 29 (Danison 11); Fouls: 15; Fouled out: None; 3-point FG: Pietila 3.

JEFFERS — Stevens 9, Pennala 8, Heinonen 1, Klemett 19, Nordstrom 2, Kinnunen 3, Pietila 6. FT: 8-15; Rebounds: 24 (Pennala 8); Fouls: 20; Fouled out; Pietila; 3-point FG: Klemett 2, Stevens 3, Kinnunen 1.