First-year coaches eye same goal

Brethren and Manistee Catholic Central will enter next week’s Class D district tournament under first-year coaches. The mission, however, is universally tried and true: take home the title.

The tournament, held at Brethren, has an all-West Michigan D League field and kicks off Monday with a quarterfinal between Pentwater (13-7) and Mason County Eastern at 6 p.m. while the Sabers (5-14) will follow against league champion Baldwin.

The hosting Bobcats (14-6) and Walkerville (0-18) drew first-round byes and await the respective winners in Wednesday’s semifinal round.

“To survive and advance we know we’ll have to keep our intensity for four quarters,” said MCC coach J.J. Randall, whose team lost twice to the Class D No. 7 Panthers in the regular season. “We had a couple lapses the last time, and that’s when they made their runs.

“Baldwin will make some runs, but it’s about playing mentally tough and fighting through them. Hopefully, we can be there at the end.”

The Sabers fell 48-29 to their first-round opponent in January, but closed the gap in a 57-47 loss earlier this month.

“It’s been awesome to see the improvement, but the real improvement shows up in the win-loss column,” Randall explained. “We’re hoping that all the hard work and the frustrating losses end up paying off at just the right time.”

The postseason is of course the perfect time to be peaking, and Randall said he’ll turn to his senior leaders in this win-or-go-home situation.

“I expect Ben (Feliczak) to take the younger guys under his wing, and he’s been doing a great job all year,” he said. “Jason Kaminski and Jeremy Bigalke have also been that way.

“They lead by example, which is great for me, and great for the younger kids.”

While the Sabers get their feet wet on the first night, Brethren has the luxury of a first-round bye, as well as the advantage of playing in familiar territory.

“It’s such an advantage to be on your home floor, in front of your home fans,” said Bobcats coach Jen Wojciechowski. “We’re really excited about it. Our school hasn’t won a boys basketball district in 17 years, so the boys are working on that goal.

“I think we’ve got the perfect scenario as far as how the district is set up.”

Brethren will either play MCE (5-14) or Pentwater (11-7) in the 6 p.m. semifinal. The Bobcats swept the Cardinals in the regular season and split with the Falcons, including this week’s 61-55 loss.

“We’ve got to believe in ourselves,” Wojciechowski said. “We’re playing pretty good basketball lately. … I do believe we’re peaking at the very best time.”

The goal of course is to be one of the two teams left standing come Friday’s 7 p.m. championship.

Assuming Baldwin (15-2) continues its undefeated run through league opponents this season, Wojciechowski said her team wants another meeting when it matters most.

“We really want another shot at Baldwin,” she said of avenging a pair of losses this year, including a 63-54 defeat on Feb. 14. “We feel like we let the last one go, in a game that we could have and perhaps should have had. We want one more opportunity at them very badly.

“We missed our first goal of winning conference, so we definitely want this next one.”

 

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Posted by Dylan Savela

Dylan is the county reporter for the News Advocate, he also is in charge of the Small Town Life, religion and senior pages. He can be reached at (231) 398-3111 or dsavela@pioneergroup.com.

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