Long-awaited district title belongs to Bays

CHASSELL – Considering the stakes were a once-in-a-generation district championship, it’s not shocking there were some jangling nerves on the Dollar Bay sideline Friday.

When trophy time came, the Bays confidently claimed what was theirs.

Dollar Bay earned its first district championship since 1979, fighting past a scrappy Chassell squad 43-34.

“To the girls, it’s a once in a lifetime thing,” DB coach Steve Krahling said.

“It feels amazing and it’s great for us because it’s been so long, especially since it’s the last year (of her career) and we’ve been trying to get it for four years now,” Bays senior guard Julia Daavettila said.

Even though the Bays, Copper Country Conference champions for the first time since that 1979 season, were playing the sixth-place team in the regular season standings, the host Panthers didn’t let the trophy leave school grounds without a fight.

Chassell made six threes and led at the end of each of the first two quarters and as late as the last minute of the third quarter.

Karli Michaels, who made five three-pointers in the first half of the semifinal win over Lake Linden-Hubbell, hit another 1:26 into the game, and scored on two layups later in the quarter as the Panthers broke out to a 9-4 lead early.

A pair of threes from Carli Daavettila gave the Bays their first lead of the game about a minute into the second quarter, marking the first of 11 lead changes through the game’s middle two quarters.

Michaels had nine of her game-high 14 points in the first half and Sara Kilpela added seven more, helping the Panthers to a narrow 19-17 halftime lead.

“They had good pressure defense, but we were sloppy with the ball. A couple of the girls were so tight and wound up that they couldn’t relax and get into the flow of the game,” Krahling said.

Julia Daavettila, who had only two points until the Bays’ last possession of the first half, asserted herself more in the second half as part of an effective inside-outside game, but threes from Kirsten Daavettila and Macy Holombo kept the Panthers in step, with Kirsten Daavettila’s trey putting Chassell up 29-28 with 1:46 left in the third.

The decisive factor may have been the Bays having two forwards (Jamie Sertich and Meagan Kangas) and the Panthers one (Madeline Huhta). Once they got the tempo under control, Dollar Bay was able to use one to pull defenders out of the lane and get the ball to the other for easy inside baskets.

“We spread out our offense to try to move and not concentrate so much on underneath but allow an opening to get a drive, and on the back side crash to the basket,” Krahling said.

From Kirsten Daavettila’s three near end of the third quarter through the halfway point of the fourth, Dollar Bay outscored Chassell 10-3 with all 10 points coming from either Sertich or Kangas.

“At halftime, we were all nervous. We were really rushed in the first half, but then we slowed it down in the second half,” Kangas said.

“We were just running our offense and the outside guards were looking in to us.”

The combination helped Kangas to a team-high 14 points.

Sertich scored to put herself into double figures (10 points) and her team into a 39-32 lead with 3:17 to go, and both Daavettila sisters made pairs of free throws to seal it.

As the final buzzer sounded, Julia Daavettila ran, arms raised, into a mob of Bays reserves coming off the bench. Though her career has 1,000-plus points, it didn’t have a district title – until Friday. The Bays (17-5) advance to Tuesday’s Class D regionals in Kingsford (6 p.m. ET), where they’ll go for the upset of unbeaten U.P. and Associated Press Michigan No. 1 Forest Park.

“We made the plays when they were key and our defense picked it up, and we started rebounding better,” Julia Daavettila said.

Julia Daavettila finished with 11 points and was named tournament MVP. Kangas and Kangas were picked for the all-tournament team along with Gabby Mayo of Baraga, Sarah Audette of Lake Linden-Hubbell and Lori Wardynski of Ontonagon.

The Panthers finish the season 7-15 but can remember a brave tournament run before a home crowd.

“I think the girls just came out and they believed in themselves and they started playing the way I know how they can play,” Chassell coach Brandi Hainault said. “It’s unfortunate the season ended up the way it did because they’re a great team and they proved it tonight and Wednesday night. That’s all I can ask for, that they showed themselves they can do it.”