Basketball - Boys

MSAC magic: Breckenridge closing in on first conference title since 1988 WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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A fresh start in a new conference has proven to be a complete success for Breckenridge High School.

The Huskies already made waves in the fall of 2016 when their varsity football team became the first ever in the MHSAA playoff era to complete a regular season 9-0 directly after a year in which they finished 0-9.

While the switch from the Tri-Valley Conference West to the Mid-State Activities Conference only tells a small part of the turnaround story, there is no doubt it has allowed the student-athletes at Breckenridge to once again feel as though they are competing on a level playing field.

But the unexpectedly great season on the gridiron has now carried over to the basketball season, where the Huskies are in pursuit of their best season in almost 30 years as they are currently 12-1 and in first place in the MSAC at 8-1.

Similar to football, Breckenridge was 6-14 in basketball during the 2015-16 campaign and an unlikely candidate to become a serious contender in any conference.

Breckenridge, which has not won a conference title in boys basketball since 1988, will have a chance to avenge its only defeat of the season Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. as it hosts Carson City-Crystal. A victory by the Huskies would put them firmly in control of their own destiny in the MSAC.

Third-year Huskies varsity coach Jeff Ostrander pinpoints the top reason Breckenridge has managed to achieve such a successful season to date.

“These kids were willing to put in the extra work over the summer,” Ostrander said. “My starting five all came out over the summer to work on fundamentals. And then when we got into the season, we worked on the details. That’s a big deal. We also have very good assistant coaches and coaches at the youth level. By the time these kids get to varsity, they’re ready to play ball.”

In fact, the last time Breckenridge won a conference crown in 1988 as part of the Central Michigan Activities Association it was Ostrander who was one of the standouts on that roster.

Now it is his son, Gavin, who is one of the top performers in leading the Huskies to 12 wins in their first 13 games.

Ostrander scored a team-best 17 points in last Friday’s 63-40 victory over visiting Montabella, helping propel the Huskies to a decisive win after what was only a 21-18 lead at halftime.

“This year is a great year because we finally have all the pieces together,” Gavin said. “We have depth and everyone contributes. At practice, it’s the first year we have enough people to scrimmage five-on-five. Everyone works hard and I think we’re finally going to win that conference title this year.”

He also does not dismiss the notion that a move to the MSAC helped precipitate Breckenridge’s transformation from a school that struggled in many sports to one capable of churning out championships in any given sport.

“It’s night and day competing with schools our size,” Ostrander added. “We actually feel like we have a chance in every single game we compete in. We go out every night and try to win.”

As a junior, Ostrander averaged 9.9 points along with seven rebounds and five assists to earn second team All-TVC West honors.

Gavin, who is a true 6-foot-3 combo guard, is joined by anther third-year varsity player in 6-6 senior center Jack Staley. After dealing with the pains of coming up short the previous two years, the duo has felt the joy of finally pushing through those obstacles in both football and basketball.

Staley, who is capable of dominating the interior on any given night, says this season on the hardwood has made all the prior frustrations worth it.

“Over the last couple of years it’s been kind of disappointing to fall short of goals,” Staley said. “Last year, we lost the majority of our games by around five points so we knew we were right there. This year we are beating almost every team we meet. So it’s really rewarding to feel that.”

Staley averaged a double-double of 15 points and 10 boards per game as a junior and is continuing to churn out big nights on a regular basis.

Winning a conference title is an achievement Staley is not taking lightly.

“It would be huge,” Staley stated. “We haven’t had a winning season like this in almost 30 years. It would be incredible.”

Junior guard Caleb Hurt, whose father was also on the 1988 conference championship squad, was a firm believer that the success on the football field would carry over to the basketball season.

“It’s all about motivation,” Hurt explained. ”We knew we could do it in basketball after almost doing it last year. We had a pretty good team and had a lot of players back. It was all about having motivation and after having such a good year in football, it definitely gave us a lot of confidence going into basketball.”

Hurt shares point guard duties with Ostrander, providing a one-two punch that allows for plenty of versatility and keeps defenses from keying in on one person. He scored 14 points in the win over Montabella, while sophomore Carter Staley contributed 15 points in the balanced effort.

“Teams can try and key in or lock down one guy and we can turn over the point guard role to someone else,” Hurt said. “It’s a big-time advantage we have.”

In the initial matchup with Carson City-Crystal, Coach Ostrander was not unpleased with the effort or how the Huskies played but also knows there are some areas to shore up heading into Wednesday’s rematch.

“We controlled the first half of that game and they controlled the second half,” Ostrander said. “We just need to focus on playing our game. We were more concerned with their game and not our game. We’re not going to do that this time.”

Ostrander did not shy away from the importance of Wednesday’s showdown.

“It’s a must-win for Carson City if they want to get back in the conference race,” Ostrander added. “But it’s also a must-win for us if we don’t want to share the conference title. And we don’t.”

Last Updated: 2/14/2017 11:48:58 AM EST