AUGUSTA — Many of the Winthrop Ramblers playing in Saturday night’s Class C South championship at the Augusta Civic Center were just starting out in the town’s youth leagues the last time Winthrop boys basketball won a regional title in 2008.

The current Ramblers are ready to make the wait worthwhile for Winthrop fans when they face Waynflete in the regional final at 8:45 p.m.

“It’s a good opportunity to show how much we’ve worked over the years, since third grade and up,” junior guard Jacob Hickey said.

The eight juniors on the Winthrop roster would have been in third grade when Sam Leclerc was leading the Ramblers to their last Gold Ball, but some of them didn’t have to wait eight years to make an impact.

Hickey was a key reserve helping them reach the quarterfinals and semifinals the last two years before moving into the starting lineup this year and becoming one of the top players in Class C.

Others, such as guards Bennett Brooks, Nate Scott and Spencer Steele and forwards Garrett Tsouprake and Andrew Pazdziorko, had to wait a little longer while last year’s senior class dominated the starting lineup and playing time.

It was time well spent, as they learned the varsity ropes from the likes of Ben Allen, Matt Sekerak, Dakota Carter and Taylor Morang.

“Our group’s been playing together for a while,” Brooks said. “We learned a lot from the group above us playing with them in practice the last two years. We’re all pretty good basketball players. Now that we’re juniors and we’ve gotten more experienced, we feel that we can go out there and play our game.”

Despite their relative inexperience, coach Todd MacArthur held the juniors to a high standard when their turn came.

“For the program’s sake, we always talk about what’s next,” MacArthur said. “This is my fifth year and these kids are kind of the second wave going through, so they’re continuing what we’re trying to accomplish. We want to get this program back to what Winthrop basketball was 10, 15, 20 years ago where every year they were here. We want to be here every year and we want to make a run every year.”

Each of the juniors has had a key role in helping the Ramblers make their run this year. Tsouprake lends support to senior center Anthony Owens with his rebounding and offense in the paint. Steele is a co-captain and athletic presence in the backcourt.

Brooks and Scott have split time at the point, with Brooks starting most of the season before suffering a late ankle injury. Scott has taken the starting reigns in the tournament with Brooks playing a crucial role off the bench.

“He’s just as good a player as I am,” Brooks said. “I believe he’s the best one for the team right now in the starting position and I’ll do my best coming off the bench. We get about the same amount of playing time, so it doesn’t matter to me. I just go in there, run the offense, get my shots when I can and play defense.”

Defense is the one constant for all of the Ramblers. While Hickey can be unstoppable at times and the entire offense can play an exciting brand of up-tempo basketball, defense is the ingredient that has gotten Winthrop (17-3) this far.

“If you ask anyone, we’re really known for our defense,” Brooks said. “We work on it every day in practice. That’s the staple of our program, really. We pride ourselves on it.”

“I don’t think that will ever change as long as MacArthur’s here,” Owens added.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @RAWmaterial33

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