BY MIKE ECKERT
GLEN LAKE — Both McBain and Glen Lake will run through a difficult non-conference schedule before kicking off league play later this month.
That began with Monday's season opener, as the Ramblers came away with a 64-61 win over the host Lakers.
"Last year, we lost to (McBain) 64-19," Lakers coach Todd Hazelton said. "With this senior class, they have a lot of maturity and we played better tonight. We didn't shoot well and we missed a few free throws, but defensively we played well. Sixty-four points is not a lot to give up to them. They're good. This is why I schedule these games at the beginning of our season. It's to prepare us for our conference and prepare us for the tournament."
"To go on the road, it was a long bus ride for us, we've got some new guys in our system, I'm happy with the win," Ramblers coach Bruce Koopman said. "I wish we could've done some things better, but we'll take it and we'll build from it."
McBain (1-0) took a 36-35 lead with three minutes left in the third quarter when Andrew Lucas pulled down an offensive rebound and put it back up for two points. The Ramblers wouldn't surrender the lead the rest of the way, but the Lakers (0-1) didn't go away either.
With two minutes left in the game, Glen Lake's Logan LaCross scored in transition off a Carter Lee steal to cut the lead to 56-55. Later, a Lee jumper brought the deficit down to 58-57.
Each time the Lakers closed in, though, McBain had an answer.
"Jared Larr's been on varsity for four years," Koopman said when asked what factored into his team having an answer for each Glen Lake run. "I do the JV and varsity, so our guys know exactly what I want. Maybe it was just experience having been down the road in some big games. I don't know. We got a nice shot or a rebound, or a put-back or a free throw. Luck, maybe? I don't know."
Larr led McBain with 22 points. Hunter Powell, who transferred from Pine River, had a good debut for the Ramblers with 20 points and nine rebounds.
Powell fouled out with 35 seconds left when Glen Lake's Mike O'Brien went up for a shot in the paint. He left with six points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter, helping the Ramblers hold on for the win.
"Mike O'Brien did a tremendous job of getting both of my (big) guys in foul trouble," Koopman said. "He uses his body extremely well. We've got to learn to work a little faster before he gets the ball."
O'Brien had a monster game to start his senior season with 36 points and 13 rebounds.
"He's worked at his game the last three years and he just gets better," Hazelton said. "He adds something to his game every year. His mid-range shot is pretty hard to beat. And he slows the game down for himself. He never rushes and he takes his time. That's why he's so good."
Lee finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, Parker Kokowicz had six points, Logan LaCross had four points and eight rebounds while Matt Omerza pulled down five boards.
The schedule remains difficult for the two teams on Friday. McBain is at Cadillac, while Glen Lake faces Boyne City in the Northwest Conference-Lake Michigan Conference Crossover Challenge.
"Boyne City already has a sophomore that's going to Central Michigan," Hazelton said. "It'll be tough. We want to represent the Northwest Conference in that challenge the best we can. But another tough game."