Three takeaways from Brethren, Manistee Catholic Central girls hoops

Three takeaways from Brethren, Manistee Catholic Central girls hoops

Updated: 26 days, 3 hours, 49 minutes, 0 seconds ago

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With football season firmly reduced to a grain of salt in the rear-view mirror, I've had a bit of a struggle figuring out what to do with my life. 

What do I do on Sunday afternoons? How do I keep myself entertained as snow refuses to stop falling? 

I got so bored that I wrote something that wasn't sports related. I honestly don't think I've done that since the sixth grade, back when a good portion of who I cover weren't even born yet. 

Fortunately, my best friend is an athletic trainer for Belmont women's basketball team, a program which was a free throw away from a Sweet 16 appearance last season. After watching the Bruins knock off Northern Iowa on Thursday, I was finally able to submerge myself into basketball season. I guess five days before March is better than never.

It also fell two days before the second meeting between Manistee Catholic Central and Brethren. A game filled with high stakes, high drama and little margin for error.

Here are my three takeaways from the Bobcats 41-40 win over the Sabers. 

Where they go from here

I'll start off with Brethren.

What a way to cap off this season. A 19-3 regular season finish with a West Michigan D League title added to its resume entering districts on. 

For the Sabers, Saturday was filled with highs and lows. They got to cheer on their biggest fans on the court before the game, then fall one play short to earn a share of the conference title. You could tell after the game how much that moment meant to this team, to this senior class and the MCC faithful.

Manistee Catholic Central players embrace one another after a 41-40 loss to Brethren on Feb. 25, 2023 at Manistee Catholic Central High School. 

Mitch Vosburg/News Advocate

From here, it's one of two avenues.

There's avenue one. A route where they allow this loss to be the point where the season tumbles down the mountain, the grind stops and they pack up shop for the season.

Then there's avenue two. This route features, but is not limited to, a furious rage fueling a journey to never feel the emotions they felt after Saturday's loss again. 

We're talking about an MCC team that finished 17-5. Of the five losses, four came by one basket. The outlier was a six-point road loss to Benzie Central, a Division 3 program who's destined for a possible district title.

My gut tells me that avenue two sounds extremely attractive to the Sabers. A third game between the Sabers and Bobcats for a regional title, which is totally possible by the way, also sounds attractive.

Everything, outside a conference title, the Sabers want out of this season is still up for grabs. 

Championship level coaches

Once I finally got back to my apartment to eat and start writing, I see a notification pop up on my phone. It was a voicemail from Brethren head coach Julie Riggs. 

There was one thing she wanted to mention following our postgame talk. She gave credit where she felt credit was due.

That was to the Brethren junior varsity coach Alex Sexton. She mentioned how he was instrumental not only in practices, but in the development of Brethren's freshman class leading up to Saturday.  

"I don't want it to go unnoticed... how important and vital he and those girls were," Riggs said. "There's no one coach that can do this by themselves."

It doesn't stop there. 

Instead of a typical junior varsity game, fans who arrived early watched MCC's biggest fans take the court. MCC coaches and players got watch the Manistee Be Brave Special Olympics basketball team a week before they hit the big stage in Mount Pleasant next weekend.

Sabers coach Todd Erickson called me the day before to tell me that their opponent from Ludington wasn't going to make it, but that they would have an intersquad scrimmage. As someone who got to cover the Special Olympics twice while in college, I figured I'd get there early and check it out.

Manistee Be Brave's Olivia Rackow (15) chats with Manistee Catholic Central junior Grace Kidd on Feb. 25, 2023 at Manistee Catholic Central High School. 

Mitch Vosburg/News Advocate

The relationship between the players, coaches and fan bases for both Be Brave and the Sabers was incredible. 

These are only two examples I'm able to squeeze into my point here. I've yet to meet a coach in Manistee and Benzie counties that doesn't care about the kids they coach. 

I have seen growth in every team this season. But this is the type of growth that will translate into real life. 

A game to remember

During my senior year of high school at Climax-Scotts 10 years ago, I was spoiled with the success of our basketball programs. Our boys team made the state title game in 2012 and fell short in quarterfinals in 2013 to Southfield Christian on both occasions. Our girls team knocked off Gaylord St. Mary in quarterfinals before falling to St. Ignace in the semifinals in 2013. The energy I felt during both team's runs is something I rarely feel. It's something I missed. 

I felt that energy in MCC's Sacred Gymnasium on Saturday.

It was one of "those days in the office" that reminded me why I chose this career. It was one of the times where I truly feel grateful that I get to start my career as a journalist here. This game easily makes my list of unforgettable moments in my career so far. 

I also couldn't believe the number of people from both sides who expressed gratitude toward me on Saturday. In the grand scheme of things, I'm just the son of a cattle farmer turned John Deere salesman turned carpenter from a hilariously named town. But after a year in Manistee, I found my purpose in life. By all means, it should be me thanking all of you.

Thank you for the support you show me. Thank you for the support that you show sports Editor McLain Moberg. Thank you for the support you show everyone with the Manistee News Advocate and Benzie County Record Patriot. 

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