Grand Rapids — Milly Allen made sure Chassell’s long, nine-hour trip from the Upper Peninsula would be a worthwhile one, helping her team rally from a 13-point first-half deficit to defeat Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes, 55-51, Thursday night at Van Noord Arena.
Allen, a 5-foot-3 senior point guard, scored 17, including three free throws in the final minutes to pull out the win and move into Saturday’s 10 a.m. final against the winner of the Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart-Adrian Lenawee Christian semifinal.
The reason for the outcome was simple, Chassell (26-1) did a much better job of taking care of the ball against Lakes’ pressure defense in the second half, especially Allen, who had eight of her team’s 15 first-half turnovers.
“At halftime we really realized that we need to push and if we played our game we would be perfectly fine and we came out strong in the second half, kept chipping away at the score,” Allen said. “We kind of worked together as a team and we told each other that we needed to come out and use the bounce pass or just be smarter with the ball altogether.”
Chassell turned the ball over just three times during the final 16 minutes, none by Allen, who had five assists.
And, Chassell did a great job of defending the perimeter during the second-half comeback. Lakes shot 52 percent from the field in the first half, making 3-of-5 3-pointers, but connected on just 7-of-30 shots during the second half, making just 2-of-16 3-pointers.
“Down the stretch I felt that we were able to get to the basket and I didn’t feel like we turned it over much,” Lakes coach Steve Robak said. “In the second half, you could see there were some struggles (with shooting), third quarter not all that good and last quarter not very good and I think that was really the difference today, had some good looks and made one here and there, but not consistent enough.”
Senior guard Tiffany Senerius scored 19 for Lakes (20-5), but connected on just 2-of-7 shots during the second half, including 1-of-8 3-pointers. Senior Kayla Sanders had a double-double (18 points, 10 rebounds), but missed multiple inside shots late in the game.
Sydney Danison had 15 points and eight rebounds for Chassell, which owned a 36-25 rebounding edge. Junior guard Jenna Pietila scored 11, making 3-of-4 3-pointers, and 5-foot-7 senior Meg Hokenson had 10 points and six rebounds, starting a pivotal 9-2 run by stealing the ball from Sanders underneath and scoring for a 47-42 cushion with 4:35 left and scoring off a driving layup to open a 51-44 lead with three minutes remaining.
“We want to start our own story,” said Chassell Coach Brandi Hainault, knowing that her team was the school’s first basketball team to win a regional title since 1958, when the boys team won the last of its three straight Class D titles.
“I always knew that they could get here and I’m just so proud of them for finishing it and doing what they had to do to win this game. In the first half, a little bit (cause of turnovers) was maybe big stage, the first time being here, a little bit of nerves, and then we kind of talked in the locker room (at halftime) about calming down and just taking care of the ball and outplaying them.”
Lakes played with tremendous energy from the opening tip, forced turnovers and took the ball to the basket and either scored or made free throws after getting to the line.
Lakes made six straight free throws and Sanders scored inside to give Lakes a 17-9 lead after one.
Lakes continued to force turnovers in the second quarter, building a 33-20 lead after a 3-pointer by Tiffany Senerius.
But, Chassell would battle back in the third quarter with Allen the calming influence.
“The first half was, I thought, pretty strong for us,” Robak said. “We started to build a nice lead and did have a couple of defensive lapses where they hit a couple of buckets and every time it looked like we might stretch the lead a little bit they hung tough.
“No. 14 (Allen) for Chassell was very fast and we did not do a good job of containing her. She was able to get around us when we were trying to maybe press or trap, that was the biggest thing that created the most problems, No. 14.”
Adrian Lenawee Christian 46, Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart 44 (OT)
Bree Salenbien made a short jumper inside the paint with four seconds left for the difference in Lenawee Christian's semifinal win over previously unbeaten Sacred Heart (25-1).
Bree Salenbien finished with 16 points and nine rebounds and Dani Salenbien scored 11 for Lenawee Christian (25-1), making two free throws with 1:05 left in OT to pull even.
Sacred Heart senior center Sophie Ruggles had a double-double (19 points, 15 rebounds) and guard Scout Nelson, 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Detroit Edison 50, Pewamo-Westphalia 39
Ypsilanti Arbor Prep 53, Maple City Glen Lake 35
Final: Saturday, 4 p.m.
Chassell 55, Waterford Lakes 51
Adrian Lenawee Christian 46, Mt. Pleasant Sacred Heart 44 (OT)
Final: Saturday, 10 a.m.
Grosse Pointe North vs. Saginaw Heritage, noon
East Lansing vs. Wayne Memorial, 2 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 12:15 p.m.
Jackson Northwest vs. Michigan Center, 5:30 p.m.
Detroit Country Day vs. Kingsley, 7:30 p.m.
Final: Saturday, 6:15 p.m.