Lakes girls book berth in title game

PAINESDALE – The Lake Linden-Hubbell girls’ basketball team couldn’t pull away from Chassell until the second half in Monday’s Class D district quarterfinal win but Wednesday the Lakes flipped it into high gear in the second quarter, outscoring host Jeffers 22-4 in that frame alone to coast into Friday’s championship game with a 51-31 win over the Jets.

“We struggled at times, but we broke out of that struggling earlier today,” LL-H coach Timm Gast said. “We’re learning how to win. I’m so happy for the girls. They’ve worked so hard, and they have a level of determination this year that I hadn’t seen yet.”

Lakes sophomore guard Sarah Audette scored 12 of her game-high 15 points in the second-quarter flurry, and junior guard Erin Gast also chipped in a season-high 15 points, including five nearly identical and perfectly executed short pull-up jump shots.

Jeffers, which has flourished from beyond the arc this season – including making six and seven triples in the two regular season games vs. LL-H – never made a three in the game, and only made four total field goals in the first three quarters.

“Those are the keys to this game. Yeah, we got out and scored 51 points and I’m happy with that, but defensively that was the biggest thing,” Gast said. “Defense is key for us – it triggers the style we play and puts us in the correct tempo, and we get transition points.”

LL-H wasn’t terribly effective in the halfcourt, but it never needed to be after forcing countless Jeffers turnovers, converting fast-break lay-ups and pounding the offensive glass when shots in transition didn’t drop.

After a 7-7 first quarter, LL-H’s defensive intensity frazzled the hosts, and Audette engineered the effective transition game, tallying three lay-ups, earning and converting on two trips to the free throw line and drilling a mid-range jumper. She scored 10 of the first 12 points scored in the second quarter, part of a 16-0 Lakes’ run.

A Kelsey Heinonen free throw 1:38 before halftime finally broke Jeffers’ second-quarter goose egg, and the hosts’ only other points before halftime came on other Heinonen free throws. She was the only Jet who finished in double figures, with 10 points.

“We came out strong in the first quarter, but I think we lost our identity,” Jeffers coach Kathleen Storm said. “It was hard to see them not get into a rhythm. They were in a really big funk and they couldn’t get out of it. I made a few adjustments here and there trying to work something out, but Lake Linden just wanted it more. They worked harder, fought harder, ran after every loose ball. That’s the bottom line.”

Trailing 29-11 at halftime, Jeffers needed a big break to start the second half, and they got it in the form of LL-H’s Brittni Kisul picking up her fourth foul 10 seconds into the third. But, even though the Lakes senior only scored seven points Wednesday, Audette and Erin Gast made up for it, with Gast pitching in six third-quarter points.

Jeffers (3-18), which had seven seniors playing their final game, never trimmed the deficit below the 18-point differential it faced at halftime.

“You have to be ready for every game, and with it being their last game I just expected them to come out with a little more fire and they didn’t,” Storm said.

LL-H (11-10) will face Baraga (11-11), which upset Copper Country Conference champion Ontonagon in Wednesday’s second semifinal, at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class D district championship at Jeffers.

The Lakes and Vikings split the regular season series, with Baraga outscoring LL-H 90-86 combined in the two games.