No. 6 Chassell ready for quarterfinal showdown with No. 4 Gaylord St. Mary

Chassell’s Meg Hokenson secures a rebound over Bark River-Harris’ Tatiana LaFave during a Class D regional final Wednesday in Kingsford. (Jason Juno/Daily Globe (Ironwood))

HOUGHTON — On the court, it doesn’t get much different. Sydney Danison is a 6-2 center that dominates the post with her athleticism and size, while Milly Allen is a 5-3 speedy guard with a lethal shot from 3-point range. The difference in their personalities is just as striking; Danison appears outgoing and talkative while Allen is typically reserved, reacting the same to a missed a shot as she does to a clutch 3.

“I think that’s maybe how the combos work, right?” Chassell coach Brandi Hainault said. “They seem to mesh well. (Sydney’s) always been more talkative and (Milly) has always been more quiet. They always seem to communicate somehow and figure it out.” 

Their contrasting styles have dominated the Copper Country hoops scene over the past three seasons, and now, the rest of the U.P. is finding out just how good they are. Danison has recorded a double-double in each postseason game so far, averaging 15.2 points and 13.2 rebounds, while Allen has delivered down the stretch, scoring 29 of her 35 points in the second half of the regional wins over Munising and Bark River-Harris. 

“I think there’s always been this stigma that up north basketball is never as good as Central U.P. basketball, but we definitely proved that wrong at the regional and are just so excited to continue,” Danison said. 

No. 6 Chassell’s season continues tonight at 6 p.m. against No. 4 Gaylord St. Mary in a quarterfinal matchup in Sault Ste. Marie. The Panthers are the last remaining Class D team in the U.P. 

“We’re so close that we just gotta keep that hunger and intensity,” Hainault said. “We’re a team that never gives up and going to give their best. 

“We have nothing to lose, they do. They’re ranked higher, their program has been around and made it to these games. We’re just going to come out and play our style of basketball.”

Both Allen and Danison will have pivotal matchups against Gaylord St. Mary. Allen, the Copper Mountain Conference MVP, will likely go up against the Snowbirds’ Alex Hunter, a 5-2 senior point guard who was named Associated Press Class D All-State First Team last season after she averaged 18 points a game while shooting 46 percent from 3. 

“I think that Gaylord St. Mary has a very good program, so they’re seen a little bit more,” Hainault said. “They have an all-state player, but I feel that I have all-state players as well. We just haven’t been seen.”

The Snowbirds also feature another capable guard in senior Averi Bubble, who scored 26 points in her team’s 61-51 regional win over Cedarville. Hunter finished with 14. 

“It’s kind of exciting,” Allen said of facing other top players. “It’s fun to see how they are compared to me. What they’ll be like and how they match up.”

Similar to Chassell’s 24-game winning streak after the loss to L’Anse, the Snowbirds lost their season-opening game of the season against Clare before winning 23 straight. Both teams have thrived on their full-court pressure and uptempo style. For the Panthers, it has been their deep backcourt of Jenna Pietila, Meg Hokenson and Lela Rautiola, in addition to Allen, that has been able to turn teams over and lead to transition layups. 

Expect more of the same kind of uptempo contest from each team. 

“They run a pretty similar style that we play,” Hainault said. “They press corners, try to trap the first inbound pass, and they’re fast. It’s going to be a fast game.”

The one definitive advantage Chassell has is its size. The Snowbirds do not feature a player taller than 5-10, meaning Danison and Sophia Huhta could be in for heavy workloads tonight.

“We got to make sure we’re not crowding the inside and having the opportunities to get it into our post players,” Hainault said, “and making sure that we’re getting rebounds. We want to crash the boards and get the second-chance opportunities.”

The winner will play whoever advances from the Waterford Our Lady (18-4) and Kingston (23-0) matchup for a spot in the 5:30 p.m. state semifinal game Thursday at Calvin College.