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Shorthanded Mason County Central battles but falls to host Manton in girls district final

Spartans play without injured 6-foot-4 senior center Wren Nelson, finish season with 19-5 record.

Mason County Central’s shorthanded girls basketball team battled host Manton for a Division 3 district championship Friday night, but the hill was a little too steep to climb.

An early deficit was too deep to dig out of it, especially without Spartans 6-foot-4 senior center Wren Nelson, who suffered a knee injury two days earlier and was unable to play Friday.

Mason County Central fell to Manton, 39-28, and closes its season with a 19-5 record.

Manton (19-5) advances to Monday’s 7 p.m. regional semifinal against Lake City (22-2) at McBain High School.

“Super proud of our effort tonight. We dug ourselves too deep a hole against a great team on their own floor, but we were able to string together a bunch of stops, which kept us in the game,” said MCC coach Brian Beebe said, whose team fell into an 18-4 first-quarter hole.

“Super proud of these seniors: 38 wins the past two seasons. There’s a whole lot of schools who would love to get that number in three years,” Beebe said. “Tough to fall short in a district 85 minutes from our school against a really good team on their home floor, but we gave them everything we had tonight.”

MCC outscored Manton in the middle two quarters, 15-8, and matched the Rangers in the fourth quarter, but the early deficit was too much to overcome.

MCC defeated five opponents this season that won district championships on Friday. Ten of the Spartans’ 22 regular-season games came against opponents that played for district titles.

MCC finished runner-up in the West Michigan Conference Rivers Division with a 10-2 record.

Mason County Central junior Mallory Miller (Amy Yonkman | CatchMark)

Junior point guard Mallory Miller paced the Spartans Friday with 16 points against Manton, while senior forward Riley Mast added five points.

Lauren Wilder, a signee of Division II Lake Superior State University, led Manton with 18 points, 12 in the first quarter. Aubrey Hiller scored 15 points for the Rangers.

“We missed a ton of easy shots, which was very uncharacteristic for us,” said Beebe, who was in his first season as MCC’s girls varsity basketball coach and serves as the school’s athletic director/assistant principal.

“Wren (Nelson) suffered a knee injury Wednesday and unfortunately we were shorthanded tonight, but it’s a credit to the kids that we absolutely didn’t use that as an excuse and did everything we could to win it for her.”

Mason County Central senior Wren Nelson (Amy Yonkman | CatchMark)

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