Posted On: 12/25/17 7:01 PM
The Central Michigan Athletic Conference (CMAC) is without question one of, if not the best small school conferences in Michigan. Every year since 2010 at least one team has made it to the Quarterfinals or further in Class C or D. Each year there is consistently 6 or 7 teams that have talented players on their rosters and are competitive. This year is no different.
I made the trip to Bath high school, which is just outside of Lansing, to catch this CMAC matchup between the Bath Bees and Fowler Eagles. Just last year, Fowler made it to the Class D quarterfinals before bowing out to powerhouse Southfield Christian. Bath lost in the district finals, losing to Pewamo-Westphalia. Bath’s record the past few years has always been misleading, as the talent of their squad far surpasses their record, and they are more than capable of beating every team in the conference any given night. Last year they beat Dansville in districts, and beat Fowler in the regular season. The final score was lopsided in this game, but it was far more competitive than what the score indicated.
Fowler came out of the gates scorching hot, dropping 25 points and doing a great job defensively on Bath’s top players. They controlled the tempo and were able to get their best players the ball in areas they can do damage, which translated to points. In second quarter, Bath cut the lead to 8, and had some momentum going into the second half. Fowler’s coach got ejected on a bizarre technical midway through the second quarter, and one of Fowler’s main scorers got into foul trouble. The second half appeared to have a Bath comeback written all over it. However, that proved to not be true as Fowler were able to again dictate the tempo, and their star players, in particular Ferris State signee Mason Pline, absolutely dominated, scoring or assisting on almost every play. They also played superb defense on Bath’s go to players, Harrison Gilstrap and Zach Parry.
Below is a breakdown on a few of the top players for each team’s performance.
Mason Pline- 6’8 PF (Ferris State)
Pline is considered a top 25 player in the state in our rankings, and he more than lived up to the billing in this game. He has made tremendous improvements physically from last year to this year, and it showed in this game. He is much stronger, yet has still lost 15 pounds since last season. Pline converted SEVEN and-ones alone this game. He also showed great improvement in his leaping ability. His double and triple jump ability is much better, and he used it to dominate the offensive glass and to finish over, and through, Bath’s defenders.
From a skill standpoint, it looks like Pline has improved his low post game. He sealed off Bath’s players down on the block consistently, and used soft hands to turn his body away from defenders and catch the ball at angles that gave him an advantage to score quickly before defenses could collapse on him. His touch inside is also much improved, although it was never a weakness to begin with. Also, his footwork down low, as well as his overall passing ability seem to have greatly improved since last year. Perhaps the only negative takeaway from this game for Pline would be his free throw shooting. He went 4-8 at the line. He finished with a very impressive 27 points on 11-18 shooting, 16 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 blocks. Ferris State got a very good one in Pline, who could become the next star in the frontcourt after reigning D2 national player of the year Zach Hankins graduates in two years time.
Mason Pline’s younger brother can flat out play too. In fact, Carter is well ahead of his older brother in quite a few areas at this same stage in Mason’s development. Carter was the best player on the floor in the first quarter for either team without question. He was the spark that got them 25 first quarter points. Carter unfortunately, battled foul trouble for most the 2nd and 3rd quarter, which stopped him from likely having a career night in multiple stat categories potentially. He still had a great game and finished with 16 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assist. Of those totals, he had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists after one quarter.
What really stood out for the younger Pline was his ability to score at all three levels in this game. He scored off a basket cut, a dribble drive, a floater, a pair of threes and a mid range one dribble pull up along with a few other buckets. The variety will be extremely important for Fowler this year if he can replicate it going forward, as they lack a pure 3 level scorer. They have an athletic bruiser in Mason Pline, who can occasionally step out to three and shoot, but he will not create his own shot from the perimeter and will do most of his damage from 15 feet and in. Owen Simon is a good three point shooter off the catch, but his handles are too loose to be a reliable, efficient scorer off the dribble. Dylan Antes is a good shooter off the catch, but certainly not off the dribble. Although only a sophomore, the younger Pline appears to be the best 3 level scorer the team has. He also has the size and mobility to get to his spots, and simply shoot over most players in the conference.
Owen Simon- 2019 6’3 SG
Simon filled the stat sheet this game. He continued to show why he is one of the better shooters in the conference by knocking down a pair of threes off the catch. Simon did a great job facilitating as well. He tied for a game high 5 assists. If starting point guard Nick Thelen was not in, Simon would usually also become the main ball handler for Fowler. Although he struggles with seeing the entire court when pressured, he did a good job in this game of taking care of the ball. For the past two years, Simon has steadily produced for Fowler. He does not garner nearly the headlines as the Pline brothers, but he will be a crucial component to Fowler’s potential success this season. Simon finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.
Gilstrap led his team in scoring despite struggling to hit shots. He went 5-13 from the floor for 12 points. Part of the reason for that was because he seemed to settle for contested jumpers rather than being patient and swinging the ball, or trying to score at the rim. Last year against Fowler, he single handedly beat them in the second half, because they could not defend him off the dribble. This game, he rarely shot inside the paint and only took 2 shots within 10 feet of the hoop in the half court this game. Gilstrap normally will put up close to 20 points per game, so I chalk it up to a bad shooting night. But going forward, he should look to attack the rim more often because he has good footwork and touch around the rim. This will open up space for him to shoot more in rhythm from deep. He is a good shooter when he is comfortable, so having that extra time would likely increase his shooting percentage going forward. Gilstrap is still one of the better available guards in the Lansing area, and should put up big scoring numbers this year.
Zach Parry- 2018 6’1 SG
Parry started the game solid. He scored on the opening play of the game, and was frequently putting Fowler’s defense under pressure. Parry has a wide frame at the guard spot, and generally played under control. He bullied his way into the paint and force the defense to collapse on him, and he frequently tried to kick it out to teammates. Parry just struggled to find his shot this game. He went 1-5 from 3, and 4-13 from the field. He had a good impact on the defensive side of the ball through, swiping 4 steals and blocking a pair of shots as well.