Jan. 21—TRAVERSE CITY — Best of three.
That's the vision the Traverse City Central Trojans have for most of their Big North Conference opponents as they reach midseason of the boys varsity basketball season.
Central has hopes of getting in two or more wins against those rivals with a third meeting possibly coming during the postseason. Central also is hopeful of getting to play those conference and postseason games with their leading scorer, Anthony Ribel, healthy and in the line-up.
Ribel missed the first seven games this season with a foot injury, including an opening day 68-33 route by BNC foe Cadillac on the Trojans' court. After falling to the Vikings Friday — by a closer 68-57 final — Central is 2-9 and 2-4 in the Big North. The Trojans' latest win was courtesy of their highest-scoring game in 15 years (a 94-50 victory over Alpena)
Ribel's injury occurred at practice just three days before the season opener, and since returning he has averaged 30 points per game.
"Anthony is a big addition — it goes without saying," he continued. "We're a much different team offensively and defensively than we were before."
Last year, the 6-foot-3 Ribel broke the junior-season scoring record at Traverse City Central previously owned by Dan Majerle, who played 14 seasons in the NBA, made three all-star teams and helped the U.S. Olympic team to a bronze medal in 1988. Ribel scored more than 600 points and also eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark during his junior campaign.
Despite missing the first third of this season, Ribel has a shot at Majerle's career scoring record of 1,388 points. He started this winter with 1,133 career points after joining the varsity as a freshman.
Ribel recalled how he struggled through Cadillac's lopsided win in the season opener while sitting on the bench.
"When you lose at home by that much, it is embarrassing," Ribel noted.
Ribel led the way with 25 points in the Alpena win. The Trojans also got contributions from Owen Ribel (20 points), Brendan Slack (12 points), EJ Maitland (10 points), Jaden Clark (10 points, five assists), Jack Potgieter (nine points, eight rebounds) and Ethan Rademacher (five assists). Anthony Ribel scored 23 in Friday's loss to Cadillac.
"We're starting to find our stride," Fischer said. "Guys are getting a lot more dialed into their roles. We have relied on a lot of guys who didn't have much experience coming into the season. Now they know they can go out there and compete having played some really good teams already."
Slack is averaging 11.2 points per game, and Maitland is contributing 10.1. Potgieter and Anthony Ribel are collecting six rebounds per game. Maitland and Potgieter kick in more than two assists.
Owen Ribel, only a sophomore, is also making a big mark for the Trojans. He's thrown down a few dunks and had the 20-point effort against Alpena.
Owen and Anthony are the sons of past Trojans standout Ryan Ribel, a key team member of the last Central team to win a regional title back in 1996. As a junior that year, Ryan Ribel averaged 17.5 points per game.
This season's potential district opener opponents include the Big North's Gaylord, Alpena, Petoskey and Traverse City West. Marquette also is in the district. The Trojans have wins over Alpena and Petoskey and lost to Gaylord and West the first time around. Anthony Ribel's second game back was against West.
He scored 19 points, but the Titans prevailed 64-59 with some strong free-throw shooting down the stretch. Cadillac is a possible regional opponent.
Although Central did not win it's best-of-three against Cadillac, the Trojans look forward to every rematch that comes their way.
"We've got a really good group of young men who are hungry to compete," Fischer said. "Our biggest goal is to win districts and hopefully regionals. We're getting a little bit better every single day."
Anthony Ribel agreed.
"My teammates were put in some uncomfortable positions to start the year," he said. "I think it will benefit us for the rest of the season. Getting the chemistry back with each other is going to be important. We need to string some big games together with all of us healthy, and make a good run."