No. 1 Dollar Bay opens districts with impressive win over Chassell

Dollar Bay’s Devin Schmitz goes up for a layup as Chassell’s Grant Hokenson defends during a Class D 128 District opener Monday in Dollar Bay. Schmitz finished with 14 points as his team won 47-24. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

DOLLAR BAY — Dollar Bay heard the whispers. That’s what happens when you’re the No. 1 team in the U.P. and you show a hint of vulnerability. So yes, the Blue Bolts heard you thought they were ripe for an upset, heard that some thought they’d be better off to lose a game before districts began and heard you questioning why they weren’t blowing teams out as of late.

They hear you, but they just don’t care.

“They’ve got rabbit ears. They hear it, they know it,” Dollar Bay coach Jesse Kentala said of his players and the criticism following a 47-24 district-opening win over the Chassell Panthers Monday in Dollar Bay. “They feel like they can turn it on when they have to … They don’t doubt themselves, and even when things aren’t going the right way or going like they should, they don’t doubt themselves and don’t get caught up in that.”

The Blue Bolts (21-0) turned it on all right, playing with a sense of urgency that’s been inconsistent throughout the 20-0 season. It’s not hard to tell when they’re locked in — just watch when they’re on defense. Driving lanes are typically nonexistent, rotation help flies over and multiple defenders are usually there to challenge every shot at the rim. Ever since the Blue Bolts trailed Jeffers by 13 at the half on Thursday in the regular-season finale, they’ve held their opponents to 15 of 61 shooting (25 percent) after limiting Chassell to just 9 of 41 from the field (22 percent).

“I know they (can defend) like that; it’s awesome to see,” Kentala said. “We know they have spurts, but to focus for 32 minutes (is big) because sometimes they get lost a little bit.

Dollar Bay’s Jaden Janke shoots over Chassell’s Abe Gockenbach as Aaron Barnes looks on during a Class D District 128 opener Monday in Dollar Bay. (Bryce Derouin/Daily Mining Gazette)

“But I thought they locked in and were really good defensively tonight. Obviously, we could’ve pressured harder than we did, but we didn’t want to get caught up in the backdoor game.”

The Panthers (12-9) didn’t want to get caught up in an up-and-down offensive shootout, either. They were content with alternating guys in their three-man weave and handing the ball off near midcourt as Dollar Bay’s pressure was ready to stop penetration by the 3-point line. But for long stretches, the Panthers were content with handing it off, and Dollar Bay was fine with letting them do so. Twice in the first quarter, Chassell killed over a minute off the clock. And to begin the second half, the Panthers took 1:20 off before attempting a shot.

“(Dollar Bay) has guys who can score, and if they don’t have the ball in their hands, it’s going to force them to play faster than normal when they do get the ball,” Chassell coach Bill Sleeman said. “We were just trying to control the game as much as we could. We just wanted to have it within reach going into the fourth, take some minutes off the clock and get a good look, then we liked our chances.

“But unfortunately, we were moving the ball well but came away too many times empty, and (Dollar Bay) capitalized on the mistakes.”

Chassell junior Abe Gockenbach opened the scoring with a layup before his team settled into the stall. At that point, the anxiety Sleeman hoped would set into the Blue Bolts’ minds was taking place.

“It was scary at first,” Dollar Bay senior Devin Schmitz said. “It felt like it would be a close game the whole game, and then we scored and got ahead, then we didn’t care anymore.”

But even limited possessions couldn’t hold down an explosive Blue Bolts offense as they closed the first quarter on an 11-2 run, capped by a 3 from the left wing by Schmitz for an 11-4 lead.

Meanwhile, Chassell turned it over eight times while making two of its three shot attempts in the opening quarter.

Schmitz finished with 14 points, while Janke led the way with 22 points.

This season, the 6-foot-4 Janke has transformed himself from being known exclusively as a 3-point marksman into a dominant post presence. He converted 9 of 12 shots in the paint and finished a layup in traffic before the halftime buzzer for a 21-11 advantage.

“We spaced out the floor (against the 2-3 zone) and it kind of seemed like I would catch the ball and it would be one-on-one,” Janke said. “Coach just kept telling me to go at it, go at it, and that I could finish over these guys.”

In a strange game where Chassell stalled, Dollar Bay senior Jacob Iacono battled foul trouble and Chassell was not going to let sharpshooting senior Brandon Thompson find open looks, the Blue Bolts leaned on Janke and Schmitz for their scoring as the two finished with 36 of their 47 points. It was a throwback to the games of years past when those two would be counted on to produce the majority of the Blue Bolts’ scoring, and they didn’t disappoint.

Schmitz swished a 3 for a 26-11 lead with 2:58 left in the third, making for what seemed like an insurmountable lead, especially after Chassell wouldn’t score until the final minute of the third quarter.

Dollar Bay opened the fourth on a 16-2 run that included a perfect 5 for 5 from Janke and a three-point play from Iacono for a 45-19 lead to ensure that Dollar Bay would host Baraga in a district semifinal at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

“When (Schmitz and Janke) are looking for each other, playing together and having fun and smiling, you know we’re in for a good night,” Kentala said. “I thought they matched Chassell’s intensity right from the jump.”

Overall, Dollar Bay shot 18 of 38 (47 percent). Schmitz was the game’s leading rebounder with seven. He’s also just six points away from being the school’s all-time boys leading scorer. Peter Duex is first with 1,556 points.

Chassell held a 27-25 rebounding advantage. Elijah Soumis paced the Panthers with 11 points.

– – –

Chassell 4 7 4 9 — 24

Dollar Bay 11 10 8 18 — 47

Chassell — Warren 1, Gockenbach 4, Barnes 2, Soumis 11, Tuomi 2, Kinnunen 4. F: 11; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 5-6; 3-point field goals: Soumis.

Dollar Bay — LeClaire 2, Ashton Janke 2, Devin Schmitz 14, Jaden Janke 22, Iacono 7. F: 11; Fouled out: None; Free throws: 9-12; 3-point field goals: Devin Schmitz 2.