Vikings hold off Panthers to earn district crown

Daily Mining Gazette/Jamie Glenn Members of the Baraga Vikings and their fans pose with the Division 4 District 98 trophy after defeating Chassell Friday in the championship game at the Ed Helakoski Memorial Gym in Chassell.

CHASSELL — It was a battle between strong defenses Friday night in the Ed Helakoski Memorial Gym as the Chassell Panthers battled the visiting Baraga Vikings for the Division 45 District 98 title in girls basketball.

When the smoke cleared at the end of the evening, the Panthers gave a valiant effort, but it was not enough to overcome the Vikings, who came away with a 32-28 victory.

The difference in the contest came in the third quarter when Baraga made an eight-point run that the Panthers never found a way to match.

“It’s huge, not only for our girls basketball program (but) for our community,” said Vikings coach Tom Goodreau. “This is something that we needed and the girls wanted to bring it back to the school (and) the community. They put in a lot of hard work in during the offseason, and during the season, (and they made) lots of sacrifices. It takes a team to win to this thing and that’s what we did tonight.”

Goodreau has stressed a defense-first attitude with his girls this season, and it paid off in spades Friday.

“With us playing stronger defense, we had girls that wanted it so bad that they were flying to the ball,” said Goodreau. “Every once and awhile we got a little bit confused because Chassell had a very good game plan and kind of provided us with some problems. The girls adjusted to it a came out with the win.”

The Vikings held a three-point lead, 15-12, going into the locker room, but started the third quarter by driving inside on offense and boxing out defensively for three buckets in a row.

Baraga also held Paige Sleeman, who had suffered an injury one minute into the contest, to one bucket and a free throw. The Panthers often found themselves unable to find space to run their normally speedy attack.

Vikings freshman Reide Osterman and sophomore Jaylyne Lindemann put up eight of the Vikings’ 10 points in the third frame. Lindemann led the Vikings with nine points on the night

The Panthers made a 12 point push in the final frame but the Vikings were able to answer nearly every basket with a basket of their own. Panthers senior Lela Rautiola put up nine for Chassell, a key layup coming off a steal with 3:38 remaining, but defensive pressure got the Panthers in the end.

“The girls played hard,” said Chassell coach Bill Sleeman. “Our defense was really outstanding for most of the night, and so was Baraga’s.

“It was a very much a defensive battle for sure for that whole first half. Then Baraga kind of got loose and hit a few shots in the third, and that was really the separation that really ended up determining the game right there.”

Sleeman agreed that once Baraga’s offense started rolling, his girls struggled to answer.

“It seemed like it was three or so baskets in a row (that) we didn’t answer,” he said. “(It) took us too far out of the picture. When we started to come back, it was just too much for us.

“Having Paige go down with the sprained ankle (just) a minute into the game (really hurt). When you have one of your primary scorers go down, I think that really affected a lot of our fluidity on the offensive end.”

Still, Sleeman is proud of his squad.

“I’m beyond proud of this group of girls,” he said. “They never stopped battling. It wasn’t a high-scoring game, but it had to be a fun game to watch from the intensity side of things.

“For us to have lost six girls from last year’s team, have a coaching change, most of these girls have never had a male coach. The way that they came together over the course of the year, that would be what I’m most proud of.”

“At the end of the day, it’s not always about the game that your playing, it’s creating a culture and more of a family,” Sleeman said. “I’m just proud of them. It just wasn’t our night.”

Baraga (19-3) will travel to Kingsford to play their next game. Goodreau wants his team to play their game.

“I want to play our game (so) that we can be successful no matter what,” he said. “We have teams that are going to try to take us out of that. It doesn’t matter what defense they throw at us (or) what pressure they throw at us, we can be composed enough to come out with a win.

“Our game is pressure. Our game is taking good shots and getting out on the fast break. We’re just going to give it our all. We want to represent this conference the best way that we can.”

Baraga 5 10 10 7 — 32

Chassell 7 5  2 14 — 28

BHS: Jahfetson 8, Koskinen 7, Osterman 6, Lindemann 9, Durant 2; Fouls: 13; Fouled out: none; 3-point field goals: Jahfetson 1, Koskinen 1

CTS: Pietila 5, Hietala 6, Rautiola 9, Sleeman 3, Goddard 3; Fouls:15; Fouled out: Rautiola; 3-point field goals: Pietila 1