by Ben Murphy
Friday night marked the third straight season Manton and McBain met in a class ‘C’ boys basketball district championship game. The Ramblers survived scares from the Rangers the last two post-seasons, but Manton got its revenge Friday night in the Roscommon district final, 54-48.
“This game was very typical of our last two district final games,” McBain head coach Bruce Koopman said. “The one difference in the game was they got the lead and hit free throws. Their was a couple big plays that were pivotal as well. Manton played a triangle and two defense on Craig Sterk and Logan Eling which made it difficult for them to score. Perhaps one of the keys was my inability to make adjustments against their defense to free Craig and Logan up offensively. The game could have easily went the other way, give one or two of these things.”
The Rangers led the back-and-forth game 37-33 entering the fourth quarter but a trey early in the fourth quarter put the Ramblers ahead 38-37 and they pulled ahead 40-37.
The Rangers answered with a game-tying three at 40-40 and the team’s traded leads and the Ramblers led as late as 46-45 with just under two minutes to go.
The Rangers took a 50-48 with just under a minute to go and hit enough free throws down the stretch to end the top ranked Ramblers’ season.
“After every game I always replay what happened with difference players and did I play it right,” Koopman said. “As a coach, I always think about how my guys executed on offense and defense. Did we struggle against their offense and so will another team exploit that weakness if they were scouting. On offense, were we balanced where multiple guys scored? Is there something we need to incorporate so we can score better?
Leading the way for the Ramblers in the game was Craig Sterk, Logan Eling, Seager Wiltzer with 10 points apiece and Nick Rodenbaugh had nine.
“This loss hurt a lot because this was just a great group of players to be around,” Koopman said. “They worked very hard, had fun and played well together. The one question will always be “What could this season of been had we won this game?”
On Wednesday, March 8 the Ramblers reached the district final thanks to a win over host Roscommon, 85-71.
McBain led the game 18-12 after the first quarter and led 42-29 at the half and held a 59-47 edge entering the fourth.
“We didn’t defend well and I felt we were out of sync,” Koopman said. “Over my years of coaching, I’ve learned that every team goes through ups and downs. Sometimes going into the tournament success can be as simple as your team just being in a groove.”
Sterk led the way on offense with 24 points, Eling netted 18, Wiltzer had 13 and Logan Taylor chipped in with 12.
McBain finishes the season 21-1 overall and a perfect 14-0 in the Highland Conference and won the league for the third straights season.
“This season may have ended too early, but all in all it was a great season,” Koopman said. “We won our third straight conference title and second straight undefeated going 28-0 over the last two years. It was our second straight perfect regular season as well. This group of young men were special to coach because they absolutely worked their butts off everyday and represented McBain extremely. Our seniors Logan Eling, Logan Taylor and Craig Sterk were just outstanding because of their leadership. These young men were absolutely the best going 47-2. They also had the trip to play in the Breslin a memory they will always remember.”
While the Ramblers will take a heavy hit in talent with graduation, Koopman feels the team should be just fine next winter.
“Next year looks very promising,” Koopman said. “We return two starters Seager Wiltzer and Nicolas Rodenbaugh and some very good players like Michael Heuker Jr. Jarrett Koopman, Andy Sikkema and Garrett Verberkmoes who all got valuable playing time this year. We may shock some teams and those who think we won’t be good.”