FARMINGDALE — Forget the January date. Winthrop boys basketball coach Todd MacArthur wanted his Ramblers to treat Thursday night’s game with fellow Class C South standings-topper Hall-Dale like a playoff contest.

Message received, from start to finish.

Jacob Hickey scored 23 points, Garrett Tsouprake added 18 and Cam Wood scored 15 to lead the Ramblers — sharp from the perimeter and dominant down low — to a 68-52 victory over the Bulldogs, one that would be difficult for any coach to find fault with.

Which is why Winthrop’s didn’t even bother to try.

“I’m incredibly proud of these kids. They’ve been looking forward to a big game,” said MacArthur, whose team never trailed and improved to 7-0. “We came into it with the intentions of ‘this is a tournament game.’ We wanted to come out and establish ourselves and establish the advantages we had.”

Winthrop had several, but from the start of the game — when Winthrop raced out to an 8-0 lead and 20-8 advantage after the first quarter — none loomed larger than the Ramblers’ height down low. Winthrop shot 47 percent from the field and made eight of its first nine shots in a third quarter that fully buried the Bulldogs (6-2), largely because Hall-Dale had no answers for the 6-foot-8 Wood and 6-foot-4 Tsouprake. Winthrop’s guards would either lob in feeds to the two towering Ramblers for easy baskets or take shots themselves, with Tsouprake (eight rebounds) and Wood (seven) more than able to clean up the misses.

“We made them look like All-Stars tonight, huh?” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “They caught the ball inside of three feet and did the (George) Mikan drill and laid it in.”

The Ramblers got their normal mid-range production — Hickey scored eight points in each the first and third quarters — but they needed only two 3-pointers all game, a clear indicator of the success they had funneling the offense inside and providing a dimension that makes an already dangerous team even more lethal.

“I think we’ve come really far up to this point,” Tsouprake said. “I think it really came down to execution. We prepared all week, working on high-lows, running a basic motion offense. I think that’s what really got us going.”

“That’s huge for us,” MacArthur said. “As much attention as Jake garners on the outside, it opens up the inside. So a team has to make a decision. Are we going to double down, and leave him on the outside to knock down some shots, or are we going to leave the post open for single coverage?”

Alec Byron had 16 points, Jett Boyer had 13 and Ashtyn Abbott scored 10 for the Bulldogs, whose undefeated record entering the week had this game looking like a marquee matchup. But Winthrop took over from the opening tip, and after Wood converted a three-point play to put the Ramblers up 27-15 with 3:51 to go in the first half, their lead never again dipped into single digits.

“It’s great,” Wood said of the hot start. “It gets our energy flowing, it gets our adrenaline up.”

“We have much respect for this program,” MacArthur said. “It’s a rivalry, they’re well-coached, they’ve got tons of talent top-to-bottom. They’re incredibly deep and they shoot the ball well.

“I think the kids turned that tempo up a little bit and played a little bit harder than they had in recent games.”

Ranslow said his team needed to change its mindset, particularly when it came to answering the challenge of Winthrop’s size.

“We don’t have a guy that we can go 6-8 (vs.) 6-8 with, and we don’t have a second guy that’s 6-5,” he said. “When you don’t have the size to match, you have to have the mentality and the psychology behind just going after it and wanting to work harder.

“Guarding somebody that’s four inches taller than you and 25 pounds (more) hurts. The result is purple and yellow marks up and down your arms. I’ve done it. It’s not fun, it hurts. But you have to make that level of commitment.”

It’s a problem awaiting many of Winthrop’s future opponents, who will face a team that just seems to be adding more and more ways to beat them.

“We’ve got a lot of potential,” Wood said. “We have a lot of room to grow. But it’s come a little ways so far. We’re starting to build the chemistry.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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