Prep Roundup: Traverse City Central begins 2024 with loss as Anthony Ribel returns to action

Jan. 2—TRAVERSE CITY — Having the reigning Record-Eagle Boys Basketball Player of the Year back in the lineup certainly helped, but it wasn't enough to carry Traverse City Central over visiting Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern on Tuesday.

Anthony Ribel made his 2023-24 season debut two days into the new year with 23 points — 16 of those coming in the first half — and a half-dozen assists as the Trojans fell to 1-7 with a 70-63 loss to the Huskies (4-2). But the improvement in play from the Trojans was undeniable for those who've watched Central play through the first month-plus of the season, which is encouraging to Central head coach Ben Fischer.

"What he brings on the court offensively and defensively, communication, leadership — he's the whole package," Fischer said of Ribel after the game. "I feel very good with him being back out there, and that resonates with the team in a major way. He does tons to get us trending in the right direction, and I feel good about our chances going forward."

The Trojans undoubtedly missed the contributions of Ribel, who was out with a foot injury, through the first seven games of the season. During the 2022-23 campaign, Ribel had a per-game average of 25 points, 6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2 steals while improving his defense and leading all area scorers despite being a focal point of every opponent's defense.

Central's lone win this year was a nine-point road victory over Petoskey on Dec. 15, snapping a streak of five straight losses to begin the season. They have now dropped two straight since the win.

Ribel scored the first four points for the Trojans and assisted on the next five as Northern built an 18-9 lead in the first quarter Tuesday. But an 8-0 run from Central on a Ribel layup followed by a Jack Potgieter triple and a corner trey from Ribel as the seconds wound down on the clock made it 18-17 after eight minutes of play. Potgieter finished the night with eight points and 11 rebounds.

Ribel hit a jumper to give the Trojans their first lead of the game at 19-18 early in the second quarter, but a 9-2 run from the Huskies with back-to-back threes from Kyle Brown put Northern up by six halfway through the frame. Brown led Northern with 20 points.

"I felt pretty good for a first game back," Ribel said. "It means everything to be back out there. The past couple weeks have been tough, but I think it's been good for our team overall. We've gone through some growing pains, and I like where we're at right now."

The game stayed close as Northern tried to pull away, but the Trojan offense responded when needed and the defense held the Huskies in check to keep it a four-point game, 34-30, at halftime.

Central came out on the charge to open the third quarter as Ribel got the hoop and the harm on a layup and made free throw after being fouled to make it 34-33. The Trojans again stayed within striking distance and eventually took a 42-41 lead on a Brendan Slack offensive rebound and putback with 3:47 to play in the third. Slack ended the game with 11 points.

The Huskies made another small run to go up by four, but the persistent Trojans fought back and took the lead again when Jaden Clark connected on a 3-pointer for a 47-46 advantage. Clark tallied nine points on the night.

The game stayed tight in the fourth with the lead being exchanged a couple times before the Huskies built a seven-point cushion at 66-59 with a minute to go. That lead ballooned to 11 with 30 seconds remaining before a pair of Trojan free throws and a bucket at the buzzer made it 70-63.

"Unfortunately, we didn't get it done tonight," Fischer said. "We got gassed out in the fourth quarter, and we're kind of revamping our chemistry with getting Anthony in the lineup. Thankfully it's mostly a seamless process when you've got a guy who's willing to make the right pass and is such a playmaker."

Forest Hills Northern also has a win over a talented Traverse City West team that the Trojans will see Friday night when they make the short trip across town into Titan territory for the first of two regular-season matchups between the Traverse City rivals. The Huskies hosted the Titans in their second game of the season and escaped with a three-point win, 60-57, against West.

"I definitely think this group has an unbelievable amount of potential," Fischer said of his Trojans. "There's a lot of little things we just need to dial in to get us there. Some of it is technical, some is just being organized, some is mental. We're fighting battles on a number of fronts, but we have really good flashes and just have to stay true to what moves us forward in a positive direction."

Moving forward, the Trojans have Traverse City West next in line, and Ribel said he and the rest of his team are ready for the rival Titans.

"I'm glad we had that game (against Northern) to give us a game before West, and I really like our chances," Ribel said. "I've been missing basketball in general, but there's no better place to go than West to try and come out with a dub. I'm really looking forward to that game."

Traverse City Central (1-7, 1-2 Big North) takes on Traverse City West (7-2, 2-1 Big North) at TC West Senior High on Friday as part of a girls-boys doubleheader. The girls game between the Titans and Trojans begins at 5:30 p.m. with the boys game to follow with a scheduled 7 p.m. tipoff.

"Anthony shines bright with the bright lights, so we're loving our chances — and we're going to go in very, very hungry," Fischer said.


Beal City 77

Manton 70

Manton: Kaleb Musselman 28 points, 13 rebounds; Lincoln Hicks 26 points, 9 rebounds; Jackson Schab 7 points.

UP NEXT: The Rangers (3-5, 2-3 Highland) welcome Pine River on Thursday.


Cadillac 58

Ottawa Hills 34

UP NEXT: The Vikings (5-0) travel to Alpena on Thursday.

Joburg 30

Posen 19

UP NEXT: The Cardinals (2-4) travel to Onaway on Thursday.

Onaway 44

Central Lake 19

UP NEXT: The Trojans (0-4) host Bellaire on Thursday.