Manistee still looking to snap streak of losing seasons

The challenge is a simple one, but not an easy one.

Be more competitive.

Since winning a Class B regional title in 2007, Manistee has posted seven straight losing seasons.

“It’s just maybe going to take a little longer than what I probably thought when I first took over,” said Manistee coach Scott Solberg, who is coming off his third season with the Chippewas. “It’s going to be more of a five-year plan than a three-year.”

Matt Simmons will be the lone returning starter for Manistee. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate file photo)

Matt Simmons will be the lone returning starter for Manistee. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate file photo)

Ending that streak of losing seasons won’t get any easier for the Chippewas, who will lose four starters and nearly all their varsity experience. Manistee will graduate six seniors that were on the roster at the end of the season. Junior Matt Simmons will be the lone returning starter and only player who logged significant varsity minutes while junior Blake Davis and sophomore Connor Mrozik will also return.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” Solberg said. “We’re going to be so young. Right now we’re looking at probably having two seniors on the team in Matt Simmons and Blake Davis, and then we’ll have a core of juniors led by Connor Mrozik. With juniors and seniors, we’ll fill five to six spots on the team and that means possibly a minimum of four sophomores are going to be brought up and, quite frankly, they’re probably not ready to come up.

“We are losing the bulk of our scoring, we’re losing so much experience. But we’re replacing it with guys that are hungry, want to get better and have great attitudes.”

The Chippewas, who finished the season 6-14 with a loss to eventual regional finalist Mason County Central, will lose 6-foot-1 wing Alex Bialik to graduation. Bialik, who was named an Associated Press Class B All-State honorable mention Friday, led the Chippewas in scoring (19.6), rebounding (7.0) and assists (3.0) this season. That leaves Simmons as the top returner heading into his third varsity season.

“His upside is there and his work ethic is there,” Solberg said. “He wants to get better and he wants to be a guy we can go to and he has a great opportunity to be a big scorer for us next year.”

Solberg said the emphasis on defense and hustle will remain the same next season.

“For us right now the goal is to be competitive and start getting some consistency,” he said. “It does take time, but if we as a coaching staff can stay consistent, that’s going to come.”

Three of Manistee’s opponents this season (Muskegon Heights Public School Academy, Frankfort and Cadillac) reached the Breslin Center this season. Getting the Chippewas onto the big stage is the ultimate goal.

“You want take to them to these games and say this is the measuring stick, this is what we have to get to and it doesn’t just happen by saying you want to do it and it doesn’t just happen by saying I love basketball,” Solberg said. “There’s a big difference between loving the game and being committed to it and getting up in the morning when other people are sleeping and you’re in the gym for an hour, an hour and a half. That’s what we have to get through and that’s the only way to do it. There’s no shortcut.”

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