Chips advance to district final

 

Manistee’s Tatum Liston (right) goes up for a layup past Benzie Central’s Lindsay Smith(1) during the Chippewas’ 68-55 win in the Class B district semifinals on Wednesday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

Manistee’s Tatum Liston (right) goes up for a layup past Benzie Central’s Lindsay Smith(1) during the Chippewas’ 68-55 win in the Class B district semifinals on Wednesday. (Scott Yoshonis/News Advocate)

REED CITY — Manistee will play for its fourth consecutive girls basketball district championship after defeating Benzie Central 68-55 in an emotional roller coaster of a district semifinal at Reed City Wednesday.

There was bit of deja vu in the air, as the contest started out in a very similar fashion to the two teams’ regular-season meeting.

Just as in the Chippewas’ 63-50 win over the Huskies on Jan. 31, Manistee jumped out to a commanding-looking lead in the first quarter, and Benzie (14-8) reeled them right back in in the second before the Chippewas pulled away in the second half.

Manistee head coach Kenn Kott said that it was a classic case of “survive and advance.”

“There were many points in that game where we were just trying to survive,” Kott said. “I’m so proud of the kids, the way they took control in the third quarter, that was huge. We really showed what we can do.”

Eight different Chippewas got on the score sheet, three of them in double figures, led by Natalee Kott’s 19 points. Erin Dorn scored 12 points, including two 3-pointers, and Tatum Liston added 10.

Georgia Hiipakka and Madison Miller each had 8 points.

But this game will be remembered for the near-constant sound of the referees’ whistles. No fewer than seven players fouled out of the contest, two more finished with four fouls and the game simply could not find a flow even before the Huskies were fouling on purpose down the stretch.

The men in stripes set the tone early when they whistled Chippewa center Sara Schaefer for three fouls in the first 3:22 of the contest.

“It changed things tremendously for us, to play the whole game without her,” Kott said. “They all realize that when somebody is down, they all have to step up, and they did.”

Despite losing Schaefer’s presence in the paint, Manistee came roaring out of the gate, taking a 16-3 lead early in the second quarter.

Natalee Kott said that it was important to start strong to negate the momentum the Huskies brought into the game from their 58-39 win over Ludington in the district opener.

“We knew they came in prepared for us, they were ready and they were pumped up,” she said. “I thought it was a great win for us, because that is a really good team.”

Benzie indeed showed its quality in the second quarter with a 19-2 run that included four 3-pointers from three different players, and Manistee (16-5) found itself trailing 24-23 at the half.

“I think or defense started falling apart a little bit,” Hiipakka said. “But once we got our heads back in it, I think we kind of snapped out of it a little bit and realized that we could do it.”

The Chippewas took over the proceedings in the third quarter, on both ends of the floor. Manistee outscored Benzie 25-6 in that frame, allowing just two Huskies field goals. Five different Chippewas found the range from beyond the 3-point arc in the quarter, which ended with buzzer-beating three by Grace Chandler that gave manistee a a 48-30 lead going into the fourth.

Kenn Kott said that lots of his players did lots of good things in that third quarter.

“Maddie Miller came in and gave us some good minutes, Sara (Thompson) hit a three, Grace (Chandler) came in and made a three, those are all huge things,” he said.

Benzie was forced to foul in down the stretch, and Manistee did just poorly enough at the free-throw line to keep the Huskies interested. The Chippewas went to the stripe 30 times in the fourth quarter, and missed 14 of those attempts.

The Huskies managed to cut the lead to single digits, but would get no closer. Manistee finally started to hit free throws in the final minute, converting 6 out of 8 attempts to run out with the 68-55 win.

The Chippewas will face Cadillac (16-5) for the district title on Friday, after the Vikings defeated Big Rapids 48-44 in the other semifinal. The two teams have met once this season, with Manistee falling 43-31 on Dec. 13.

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Posted by Scott Yoshonis

Scott is the sports editor of the Manistee News Advocate. You can reach him at (231) 398-3112 or syoshonis@pioneergroup.com.

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