LaTendresse powers Panthers to first win

CHASSELL – The Chassell boys’ basketball team put a big load on some broad shoulders Tuesday, and he carried it away.

Jordan LaTendresse’s 20 points helped the Panthers prevail 50-28 over Dollar Bay in a Copper Country Conference battle of winless teams.

“We’ve been fighting it all year. It’s almost like the longer it goes, that weight gets heavier on the shoulders. It’s definitely big to get a win and to get it here on the home court was even better,” Chassell coach Bill Sleeman said. The win was also the first of his varsity coaching career.

The Panthers have been in the midst of a major rebuild, returning only 16.5 percent of the scoring from a district championship team last season. But Tuesday, they might have caught on to something.

“I think we did a good job of recognizing we had an inside advantage. We really concentrated on getting the ball down low after the first quarter. Our guards did a good job of getting it in there, and our big guys, especially Jordy, did an excellent job of finishing when they were down there,” Sleeman said.

The visitors had the advantage in the early going, leading 11-5 late in the first quarter on the strength of two threes from Tom Autio and one from Steven Joyal, but Joyal’s three with 1:47 left in the frame would be the Bays’ last field goal until midway through the third. DB coach Jesse Kentala agreed that the early success from long range may have given his offense a false sense of security.

“Right now, we’re not going to the basket at all. Everything is around the perimeter and nobody’s trying to penetrate those gaps,” he said.

Also creating problems was foul trouble for leading scorer Carl Kangas.

“He’s been the one consistent offensive factor for us this year, but even when he was in the game, we did a really poor job of looking for him, finding him, post entry was poor,” Kentala said.

The light came on inside Chassell’s offense late in the first quarter when the burly LaTendresse scored the first of what would be several inside baskets, many of them with contact.

Chassell took the lead on a similar play with 6:21 left in the half, in which LaTendresse had nine of Chassell’s 20 points. He repeated the feat three more times early in the third quarter as the Panthers extended their lead to 10, then finished the frame with a little finesse, converting a reverse lay-up at the horn to give the hosts a 15-point edge, then receiving a chest bump from teammate Kyle Stromer.

“I hope this will be a breakout game for him. He’s had a couple of decent games, but nothing like this. I’m hoping this gets him motivated and fired up,” Sleeman said.

Stromer added 11 for Chassell (1-9, 1-4 CCC), which will host Hancock on Friday.

Autio led the Bays with nine points. DB (0-9, 0-4 CCC) hosts neighbor Lake Linden-Hubbell Friday.