Purple Hornets oust Bulldogs in semifinal

L’ANSE – The L’Anse girls’ basketball team doesn’t exactly look like ‘grizzled veterans,’ but they played like them Monday.

Led once again by its trio of talented seniors, the Purple Hornets put together a professional, if not perfect 68-45 dismissal of Hancock from the Class C district tournament.

Coach Scott Lloyd didn’t appear to be impressed with the way his Hornets handled an aggressive Hancock team, particularly on the glass. However, L’Anse never trailed and after establishing a double-digit lead early in the second quarter, never let the visitors make a serious comeback bid.

“I think that first half we were a bit intimidated by the hard play. You don’t know what’s going to happen, we’ve got to be able to play through it. We were guilty of doing lots of reaching and stuff ourselves. It’s kind of that sloppy basketball that becomes contagious and everyone on the floor starts doing it,” Lloyd said.

The reward for the Hornets is a chance to win a district championship trophy on their home floor in the final against Calumet Wednesday night, an opportunity Lloyd isn’t taking for granted.

“It’s going to be a daunting task … they’re a team that’s scared me from the start of the season. Well-coached, well-disciplined, they’ve got a little of everything,” he said.

Kelsey Ross finished with 23 points, Madi Swanson with 21 and Valerie Rajala with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Ross had 14 first-half points, including seven in a row in a second-quarter push that put the Hornets up 29-13.

Symbolizing Hancock’s aggressive approach, Mackenzie Brunet scored 10 points in the first half, many by just getting after rebounds or attacking the rim.

“I give Mackenzie a lot of credit. She bought her time coming off the bench for us and at some point in the season she said, I’m just going to earn it … She’s a gamer. She’s going to help us in the future big-time,” Hancock coach Jack Johnson said.

However, Hancock just didn’t generate enough offense to do more than hang around, shooting 23 percent from the field.

“You’ve got to give yourself a chance and if you don’t knock down shots, eventually they’re going to score. You can’t keep a team like L’Anse from scoring, it’s impossible,” Johnson said.

Maija Sebbas connected from deep to make it 36-23 two minutes into the second half, but any attempt to connect enough stops to get into the game seemed to get cut off by the free-throw line. The Hornets were in the bonus nearly two minutes before the end of the third quarter and ended up attempting 25 free throws.

Berg and Brunet finished with 11 points to lead Hancock. Sebbas added 10. The Bulldogs end their season 14-7, having more than doubled their win total from the year before.

“We’re happy with the season, but we’re not content. We’ve got a long way to go,” Johnson said.