BANGOR – You can call them by their proper name, player control fouls. You can be more concise and call them offensive fouls. You can call them what they were known as for years of basketball, charges.

Whatever you want to call them, the Winthrop High School boys basketball teams calls them a key to its defensive philosophy. In Saturday night’s 61-49 win over Houlton in the Class C state championship game at the Cross Insurance Center, player control fouls were instrumental for the Ramblers.

Winthrop’s Nate Leblanc reacts after his team scores a basket against Houlton in the Class C state championship game Saturday night at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo byMichael G. Seamans

“I said that in practice, ‘Are you willing to take a charge and win a Gold Ball?’” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said.

The Ramblers took four charges from the Shiretowners on Saturday night, none bigger than the one Ryan Baird stepped in front of with 6:10 left in the game. At the time, Winthrop had a 43-39 lead. By stepping in front of a driving Keegan Gentle, Baird made sure the Ramblers kept momentum.

“Coach always talks to us about accountability. Who’s going to have your back? I had my teammates back,” said Baird, who also took a first quarter charge from Nick Brewer. “I know it’s going to hurt. (Gentle’s) a big dude.”

Jared McLaughlin also took a charge for Winthrop, from Jaron Gentle with 5:15 left in the second quarter and the Ramblers trailing 13-12.

Sam Figueroa, Winthrop’s 6-foot-5, 285 space taker in the low post, took one from Keegan Gentle with 4:43 left in the first quarter. Outweighing Gentle by at least 100 pounds, Figueroa grinned as he pulled himself off the court.

“I’m a big guy. He’s a smaller guy than I am, obviously, but it packed a punch. He’s a built kid. He’s a good ballplayer,” Figueroa said. “He did a good job trying to get around me, but I got there.”

Defense is so important to MacArthur, he’s practically in a defense stance as he coaches a game, arms outstretched in front of the Winthrop bench. Taking charges is part of the mindset MacArthur installed in the Ramblers before the season began.

“Way back at the beginning of the season, he knew exactly what we were capable of. We practiced defense, defense, defense, and every tenth day we’d practice offense. We knew what we needed to do,” Figueroa said.

When scouting Houlton, MacArthur knew the Ramblers would have to tweak their defense in order to step into lanes, take charges, and force turnovers.

Winthrop boys basketball coach Todd McArthur, center, and assistant coach John Baehr, right, react after a call during the Class C state championship game Saturday night at the Cross Insurance Center in Bangor. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

“Watching film, I was really concerned with the sets that (Houlton) ran. They ran a high post set, and it takes away, we call it our free safety down low, the charge-taker. It pulls him away,” MacArthur said. “We adjusted our defense a little bit on top not to angle so much. The kids did a great job when the opportunity presented itself, to get over there and slide over and take a charge.”

Taking charges is not a bonus at Winthrop. It’s expected. MacArthur gets upset when a Rambler doesn’t step up and take the contact, Baird said. Against Houlton, they did, and it paid off with the team’s first state title in 11 years.

“These guys buy into that,” MacArthur said, “and it rewards what we’re trying to do.”

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