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Regional March Hoops

ROSCOMMON – Losses are always hard to take. But never more so than in the MHSAA post-season tournament, where there is no tomorrow. It’s survive and advance, or pack up the uniforms and say good bye to the seniors.

Unfortunately, it was the latter case for the Roscommon boys basketball team on Wednesday, March 8 when the Bucks were eliminated from the tournament in the Class C district championship game played on their home floor against the McBain Ramblers.

The Bucks didn’t go down without putting up a valiant effort in a high scoring affair. It took a 26-24 advantage for the Ramblers in the fourth quarter to finally put the Bucks away in an 85-71 victory to keep their record at a perfect 21-0 at the time. Roscommon finished the year 15-7.

“I could not have asked my kids to play any harder than they did tonight,” Roscommon coach M.J. Ewald said.

“The game was closer than the final score indicated. We fought hard for 32 minutes and got their lead down to single digits two or three times in the second half.

“We kept attacking the basket, and kids hit some big shots. They really stepped it up tonight against a really good team. We found ourselves down, 50-30 and got the lead down to 61-52 and 62-54. In the end, McBain had too many weapons.”

The Ramblers squeezed into an 18-13 lead at the end of the first quarter and then outscored the Bucks, 24-16 in the second to build a more comfortable 13-point cushion, 42-29, at the half. But the Bucks weren’t about to wave the white flag of surrender.

Not as long as there was still time left in the game, and they came back with an 18-17 edge in the third quarter which closed the deficit to 59-47 going into the fourth quarter. But it was too big of a mountain to climb.

Kaleb Keipert ended his career with a tremendous game at both ends of the floor with 23 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Michael Treml added 13 points, five rebounds and four steals while sophomore Dane Smitz contributed nine points, two assists and three steals.

“Smitz, Keipert and Treml were three-year starters for me and they left everything they had on the floor,” said Ewald. “(Grant) Smitz dished out four assists and did a good job of moving without the ball on offense, and for his hustle on defense.

“I can’t say enough about these three kids for how they improved and how they led this team this year. Dane Smitz was an integral part of our run in the second half. He’s fearless and brought great energy to us. He did an excellent job attacking the basket and finding open players.”

HOUGHTON LAKE — If everything went well, Houghton Lake boys basketball coach Jeff Goodwin thought the Bobcats could win 14 games this season and post a winning record. But, that didn’t happen.

The Bobcats lost a tough a 54-49 game to Roscommon in the rematch of the two county and Jack Pine Conference rivals and dropped another tight game to Tawas at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Houghton Lake entered the district tournament on a two-game winning streak, but couldn’t keep up with a very good Manton team in an 81-56 loss to end the season with a 10-11 record.

“We didn’t sneak any of the other games we thought we’d be able to grab this season,” Goodwin said. “Considering we only had three guys coming back with any varsity experience, and two of them were sophomores who played bit roles last year, I was pretty happy with how it went.

“Everyone this time of year talks about the draw that you get and you’ve got to beat the teams put in front of you, but we felt like we were playing really good basketball heading into the playoffs. Then you get a team like Manton in the first round that’s going to play in the quarterfinals on Monday it ends your season quick.

“I thought offensively we were very competitive. They (the Rangers) just had a really good night offensively and we didn’t have a whole lot matchups that we could slow them down.”

“Ultimately, it caught up to us. It certainly wasn’t a poor performance in the playoffs. They’re in the Elite Eight. Obviously, they’re a good ball club.”

All of the starters are expected to return next year, seven of their eight rotation players and will add a couple of nice pieces from the junior varsity team so the Bobcats have high hopes of climbing up in the conference standings. They were 6-8 in the Jack Pine for fourth place.

Goodwin is very excited about the team Houghton Lake will be bringing to the table next year. Not a lot of teams will be returning 10 players on top of the players that will be coming up from the junior varsity.

One of the biggest returners will be Cameron Sidelko who as junior was the Bobcats’ leading scorer averaging about 13 points a game. Shawn Mckinley, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound center was second at about 11 points a game.

John Steckler, a 6-2 and 220-pound junior, led the team with around nine rebounds a game with Mckinley next at six per game while Sidelko pulled down an average of four rebounds. Jackson Blanchard, another junior, averaged about four assists a game while Sidelko averaged around three per game. Another junior, Brock Decker paced the Bobcats led the team in made 3-point field goals.

The Bobcats lose seniors Charles Stockdale, Jeremy Beauregard and Nathan Wilder who all contributed in some fashion.

Four players received All-Conference honors after the season. Sidelko and Steckler were both named to the Second Team, while Mckinley and Blanchard each got Honorable Mention. Lucas Gronski, another junior, won the Sportsmanship Award.

“Having four guys coming back that got All-Conference accolades, you feel pretty good about your prospects,” said Goodwin. “Everyone in the conference is going to retool a little bit. Beaverton is losing undoubtedly the best player in the conference, three starters and four of their top six players.

“Meridian is going to graduate four of their starters, but they’re still going to be loaded next year. Their JV team won the conference, and they played 10 or 11 guys deep this year. They’re still going to be excellent.

“Roscommon is taking a big hit. They’re losing four starters, and I think five if not six of their key players. But they have some good kids coming up from the JV. Heading into the off-season I think it’s the consensus is that Clare and Meridian are kind of in the driver’s seat right now.”

Houghton Lake believes is on the verge of making their top tier, if a little bit below it. But the Bobcats have high aspirations for the team next year.

KINGSLEY — Kingsley got the early jump on the Grayling boys basketball team in the MHSAA Class C district championship game on Friday, March 10, at Kingsley but it was the Vikings who won the race with a 63-47 victory

The Stags took an 11-9 lead at the end of the first quarter, but things went south quickly after that as the Vikings took command and pulled away. Grayling outscored the Stags 15-11 in the second quarter and led, 24-22 at the half.

It wouldn’t be as close as the Stags would find themselves the rest of the game as the Vikings outscored them, 17-9 in the third quarter and went into the fourth quarter with a 10–point lead, 41-31.

‘We struggled early,’ Grayling coach Rich Moffit said. ‘Our defensive pressure was very inconsistent and we were not dominating the 50/50 balls. Offensively we were stagnant. You have to give Kingsley and coach (Dennis) Schaar credit for having his guys prepared to play.

‘In the second half we got our transition game going and did a much better job on the boards.”

“Our guys did a great job of passing the ball and we were able to get the ball to our scorers in areas where they could be effective.’

Spencer White popped in a team-high 26 points for the Vikings, shooting 7-of-13 from the floor and 12-of-16 at the free throw line. Troy Summers fired in 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Trey Moffit contributed six points while Justin Nicholas and Nick Hunter each chipped in two. Summers had 14 rebounds and three assists. White hauled down eight boards and Moffit five. Moffit had three assists.

‘I am really happy that this team won a district championship,’ said Moffit. ‘This team has outstanding chemistry and they truly have formed a bond that will last for a lifetime. As a coaching staff, we have preached that team work makes the dream work, and they have embodied that phrase. This group has left a legacy.

‘On behalf of the team we are very grateful for the support that we have received this season from the Grayling community. Viking Nation has traveled with us and supported us and encouraged our players through adversity.

SAULT STE. MARIE – The Vikings advanced to the title game with a 51-48 squeaker over Sault Ste. Marie in the Soo the pervious night. For the second straight game, Grayling had to rally from an early deficit after the Soo took a 12-6 lead at the end of one.

But the Vikings turned things around again with a strong second quarter, outscoring the Soo, 14-9 in the second to trim the deficit to just 21-20 at the half. The Soo extended its lead to 41-37 going into the fourth quarter with a 20-17 edge in the third. Grayling nosed ahead with a 14-7 edge in the third.

Summers paced the Vikings with 19 points and 14 rebounds for a double-double. He was followed by Spencer White with 18 points and four caroms. Brent Weismiller contributed four points, while Justin Nicholas, Trey Moffit and Nick Hunter each added two.

SAULT STE. MARIE — Grayling’s six-game winning streak ended in the first round of the MHSAA Class B regional boys basketball tournament at Sault Ste. Marie with a 74-69 loss to the Gladstone Braves on Monday, March 13.

The Vikings finished their season with an 18-6 record and a district championship. But they would have liked to have added a regional title to their bag. Gladstone was equal to the challenge, managing to hold off a determined effort.

Gladstone battled hard in the first quarter, setting the tone for the game, and ended the period with a 23-18 lead when the horn sounded. The Vikings scrambled back for a 15-12 advantage in the second quarter to close the gap to just two points, 35-33 at the half.

The Braves outscored the Vikings, 21-17 in the third which enabled them to stretch their lead out to a six-point margin, 56-50 going into the final eight minutes. Grayling had a 19-18 advantage in the final period, but it wasn’t enough.

“We fought through a lot of adversity,” Grayling coach Rich Moffit said.

“Our two guns (Troy Summers and Spencer White) were in foul trouble. Troy had two fouls in 1:15 that hurt us big time. Give them (the Braves) credit. They hit some shots and fought through some adversity on their part, too.

“On our end, they really packed it in on Troy. I thought our perimeter kids did a decent job of knocking down shots. Trey and ‘Buddha’ (White) were tough in the second half. They provided great leadership all year long. I loved the way they supported each team member.”

It was one of the Vikings’ best nights offensively as they had four players score in double figures. Troy Summers knocked down 20 on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor to lead the group, while Spencer White finished with 17, Trey Moffit contributed 16 and Christian Artress added 10. Justin Nicholas was the only other Viking to score with six points.

Summers also led the team in rebounding with 11 boards to finish with 380 for the season which eclipsed Bob Strongs’ rebounding record of 375 set in the 1957 season. Summers wound up with 855 rebounds for his career, easily beating Gerry St. Germain’s old mark of 681 in 1969. Summer closed out his career with 955 points.

Nicholas and White each had five. Artress was the Vikings’ leading playmaker with seven assists, followed by Nicholas with five, Summers four and White three. White and Summers each had two blocked shots.

“The bottom line is that this group battled all year long,” said Moffit. “We faced a ton of adversity in games and with injuries. This team is special, because they believed in each other, played hard and played together.

“I was really impressed with the way that our community has embraced this team. This team contains top notch players, but more importantly top notch character. I really enjoyed coaching this group. The toughest part for me is that we cannot practice tomorrow. I really enjoyed being with them. ‘Great memories.”

SAULT STE. MARIE — Grayling’s six-game winning streak ended in the first round of the MHSAA Class B regional boys basketball tournament at Sault Ste. Marie with a 74-69 loss to the Gladstone Braves on Monday, March 13.

The Vikings finished their season with an 18-6 record and a district championship. But they would have liked to have added a regional title to their bag. Gladstone was equal to the challenge, managing to hold off a determined effort.

Gladstone battled hard in the first quarter, setting the tone for the game, and ended the period with a 23-18 lead when the horn sounded. The Vikings scrambled back for a 15-12 advantage in the second quarter to close the gap to just two points, 35-33 at the half.

The Braves outscored the Vikings, 21-17 in the third which enabled them to stretch their lead out to a six-point margin, 56-50 going into the final eight minutes. Grayling had a 19-18 advantage in the final period, but it wasn’t enough.

“We fought through a lot of adversity,” Grayling coach Rich Moffit said. “Our two guns (Troy Summers and Spencer White) were in foul trouble. Troy had two fouls in 1:15 that hurt us big time. Give them (the Braves) credit. They hit some shots and fought through some adversity on their part, too.

“On our end, they really packed it in on Troy. I thought our perimeter kids did a decent job of knocking down shots. Trey and ‘Buddha’ (White) were tough in the second half. They provided great leadership all year long. I loved the way they supported each team member.”

It was one of the Vikings’ best nights offensively as they had four players score in double figures. Troy Summers knocked down 20 on 8-of-12 shooting from the floor to lead the group, while Spencer White finished with 17, Trey Moffit contributed 16 and Christian Artress added 10. Justin Nicholas was the only other Viking to score with six points.

Summers also led the team in rebounding with 11 boards to finish with 380 for the season which eclipsed Bob Strongs’ rebounding record of 375 set in the 1957 season. Summers wound up with 855 rebounds for his career, easily beating Gerry St. Germain’s old mark of 681 in 1969. Summer closed out his career with 955 points.

Nicholas and White each had five. Artress was the Vikings’ leading playmaker with seven assists, followed by Nicholas with five, Summers four and White three. White and Summers each had two blocked shots.

“The bottom line is that this group battled all year long,” said Moffit. “We faced a ton of adversity in games and with injuries. This team is special, because they believed in each other, played hard and played together.

“I was really impressed with the way that our community has embraced this team.

This team contains top notch players, but more importantly top notch character. I really enjoyed coaching this group. The toughest part for me is that we cannot practice tomorrow. I really enjoyed being with them. Great memories.”

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