By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
GRAND RAPIDS – The possibility of a Chassell basketball team playing for an MHSAA championship for the first time since 1958 was within reach with a half remaining Thursday.
But earning that opportunity would take some work.
The Panthers trailed Waterford Our Lady by nine during their Class D Semifinal at Van Noord Arena – and senior point guard Milly Allen had an uncharacteristic eight turnovers.
“At halftime we realized we needed to push, and that if we played our game we’d be perfectly fine,” Allen said. “We came out in the second half, kept chipping away.
“We worked together as a team. We told each other we need to come out, we need to bounce pass, we need to be smarter with the ball all together.”
Chassell had only three turnovers as a team during the second half. Allen had none. And the ball spent most of the final minutes safely in her hands as Chassell’s girls team continued its longest run in program history with a 55-51 victory.
Chassell (26-1) will play Adrian Lenawee Christian in Saturday’s 10 a.m. championship game.
The Panthers’ Regional title last week was the first won by either the girls or boys basketball programs since the boys won three straight Class D titles from 1956-58.
“This means the world. They’ve earned it,” Chassell coach Brandi Hainault said. “They’ve worked hard, and we always knew we could get here. … I guess in our minds, this is where we were going to go. For it to happen, it’s just an amazing feeling.”
Some big-time second half efforts made it reality.
Four players combined to score all but two of Chassell’s points – Allen finished with 17, senior center Sydney Danison 15, senior forward Meg Hokenson 10 and junior guard Jenna Pietila 11. But they’d combined for only 24 of those 53 points during the first half.
Allen scored 11 of her 17 during the final two quarters, and also finished with five assists and three steals – and plenty of praise from Our Lady coach Steve Robak.
“(She) was very fast and we didn’t do a good job containing her. She was able to get around us when we’d try to press or trap, and that’s what created the most problems,” he said.
“They tried to get the ball to (Allen) every time and have her try to do her thing, which is use her speed. Maybe in the first half we did a better job containing her, but I felt like most of the game we had trouble with (her) when she had the ball.”
The 6-foot-1 Danison also made an impression during the second half with nine of her points and a strong presence defensively.
The Lakers started off the game hitting 52 percent of their shots during the first two quarters. They then made only 27 percent during the third quarter and 21 percent during the fourth.
Our Lady had only nine turnovers for the game – but along with the tough shooting night was outrebounded 36-25.
Senior Tiffany Senerius had 19 points and four steals to lead Our Lady (20-5), and senior Kayla Sanders added 18 points, 10 rebounds and four steals.
“We had five seniors, three were starters, and I’m extremely proud of the entire team because the entire team had an incredible season,” Robak said. “We had four losses (before Thursday) all year to four really good teams, two of which are still playing. So I’m proud of this team and everything they gave. The seniors gave everything they had.”
Our Lady has had its share of storybook endings lately with three Semifinal runs over the last four seasons and three championships over the last eight.
In Chassell, stories of the 1956-58 boys championship teams continue to be told. Now the girls are carving out their place in local and state history.
“It’s awesome for them. They had three state championships, and that’s something you’re going to talk about for the rest of your time around,” Hainault said. “I guess we want to start our own story.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Chassell’s Milly Allen dives for a loose ball during Thursday’s Class D Semifinal. (Middle) Our Lady’s Kayla Sanders puts up a shot over Allen’s reach.
Hemlock and Rockford's drives to their first Girls Basketball Finals championships in March were paced in part by some of the strongest 3-point shooting in MHSAA history.
The Division 1 title-winning Rams connected on 243 3-pointers – third-most all-time – over 29 games in tying the single-season wins record while finishing 28-1. Grace Lyons, a senior this fall, made the single-season individual list with 70 3-pointers.
The Huskies won in Division 3 having connected on 229 3-pointers over 29 games, seventh-most in MHSAA history, on 678 attempts, which ranks 12th on that list. Chloe Watson made the single-season list with 75 3-pointers, and Regan Finkbeiner did as well connecting on 67.
Watson also made the career 3-pointers list with 224 and Finkbeiner with 194, and 2017 Hemlock graduate Samantha Krauss was added for 65 3-pointers as a junior in 2015-16 and 188 for her career. Additionally, past Hemlock standout Karli Herrington was added for her 317 rebounds in 2012-13, and Peyton Apsey was added for 144 steals in 2010-11.
Watson is continuing her career at Mid-Michigan College, and Finkbeiner is playing softball at Madonna. Herrington went on to play at Central Michigan and Northwood, Krauss played at Ferris State and Apsey played at Oakland.
Read on for more recent record book additions for girls basketball:
Hudsonville’s Maddie Petroelje joined the list of top 3-point shooters in MHSAA history as a junior in 2021-22, when she connected on 70 (in just 147 attempts) to make the single-season list. She graduated this spring 16th on the career list as well with 226 3-pointers in 512 attempts over 92 games and four seasons. She is continuing at Loyola (Ill.).
Byron Center’s Avery Zeinstra also finished her career among those top 3-point shooters. She also made the single-season list with 70 in 147 attempts as a freshman in 2018-19, and she capped her career in 2021-22 with 206 3-pointers (tied for 20th-most) in 502 attempts over four seasons and 80 career games. She is continuing at Grand Valley State.
Hannah Thompson was best known for her soccer scoring at Schoolcraft. But she’s made a second MHSAA record book for her 15 steals in a Jan. 28, 2022, basketball win over Galesburg-Augusta. She’s continuing her soccer career at Eastern Michigan.
Baraga’s run to the Division 4 Semifinals in 2022 received big boosts from Corina Jahfetson’s 3-point shooting and Reide Osterman’s defense. Jahfetson was added to the record book with 66 3-pointers over 25 games, including nine in a game against Carney Nadeau – when Baraga as a team made the record book with 14 3-pointers total. Osterman made the record book with 153 steals. Jahfetson graduated this spring, and Osterman is playing at Northern Michigan.
Grand Rapids West Michigan Aviation Academy’s Audrey Mileski had one of the busiest games at the free throw line in MHSAA history Dec. 14, 2021. She made 23 free throws – third-most in a single game – against Wyoming Kelloggsville. Mileski graduated this spring.
Sophia Bussell had set Monroe’s single-game 3-pointers record of eight as a freshman two seasons ago, and she bettered it last Dec. 13 by tying for the 10th-most in MHSAA history. She made 10-pointers including the game-winner of a 58-56 victory over Ypsilanti Lincoln. A little less than 10 months earlier, Adrian Lenawee Christian then-senior Kylie Summer also made 10, on 17 attempts, during a 57-34 win over Lansing Christian on Feb. 24, 2022.
Lydia Meredith enjoyed a memorable senior season for Portland St. Patrick in 2021-22, finishing her four-year varsity career with 453 steals over just 80 games. She also was added for drilling 17 free throws in 22 attempts against Fowler. She plays now at Saginaw Valley State.
Gabby Piepho got off to a fast start at Howell as a freshman last season, and at a record-setting pace at the free-throw line. She made 93 of 107 attempts over 25 games, for an .869 percentage that made the single-season list. That included a string of 47 straight free throws that ranks as the second-longest in MHSAA history. As a team, Howell tied for sixth all-time with 301 free throws over 25 games, on 439 attempts.
Kent City’s Lexie Bowers reached the single-season 3-pointers list for the second time last season, connecting on 72 of 233 tries over 26 games (after making 77 as a junior), and finished her four-season varsity career 16th on that 3-pointers list with 225 in 693 attempts over 99 games. She’s continuing her career at Northwood. Kent City as a team also reached the single-season 3-pointers made and attempted lists again, ranking fourth with 753 attempts and tying for eighth all-time by connecting on 202.
Posen then-junior Faith Cousins earned a par of record book entries during 2021-22 for assists. Her 16 in a District Final win on March 4, 2022, remain tied for fifth-most in one game, and she finished with 165 over 22 games for the season. She’s set to begin her softball career at Alma College.
Niles Brandywine went over 20 wins again this past season, finishing 21-3, and again the 3-pointer was a key tool in that pursuit. Brandywine made the record book with back-to-back games of 13 3-pointers to close the regular season, and finished with 175 3-pointers in 592 attempts over 23 games (with one won by forfeit).
Greenville’s Megan Leslie averaged more than two 3-pointers a game during her four-season varsity career, making the record list with 153 total over 76 games through graduation this spring. She’s continuing her career at Alma College.
Successful 3-point shooting played a major role in Saline finishing 21-4 with league and District titles last winter. The Hornets attempted 704 3-pointers – ninth-most all-time for one season – and connected on 191, which is 12th on that list. They made a season-high 14 against Ypsilanti Lincoln on Nov. 29 to make the single-game list.
Marcellus senior Brooklyn VanTilburg enjoyed a big finish to her high school career last winter, making the record book with 16 blocked shots in a game against Centreville and 135 blocks total for the season. She’ll continue at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.
Kennedy Gustafson made headlines last winter as a sophomore and earned a pair of record listings for her rebounding. She grabbed 26 in a March 3 District Final win over Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, and she finished with 376 rebounds over 25 games for the season.
PHOTO Hemlock's Regan Finkbeiner, left, follows through on a free throw attempt during last season's Division 3 Final, and Rockford's Grace Lyons launches the game-winning 3-pointer in Division 1.