WINTHROP — Todd MacArthur knew he had a good roster. And if the Winthrop boys basketball coach had just let everyone play the roles they had been playing, with the minutes they had been getting, the Ramblers would have been good. Probably very good.

But for them to be great — net-cutting, Gold Ball-hoisting great — he knew the status quo needed a shakeup.

“They want to win. But they also want to play. And I understand that. That’s not a selfish thing,” he said. “For me to look at those kids and say ‘Hey, I need you to sacrifice some minutes. I need you to play less,’ or ‘I need you to play this role instead of that role,’ that’s a tough sell to some kids.”

MacArthur had those conversations, however, and he had players who were on board with the message. Months later, all parties got the results they were looking for, as Winthrop beat Houlton 61-49 for its first Class C state title since 2008.

For his role in leading the Ramblers to a 21-1 record and the state championship, MacArthur is the Kennebec Journal boys basketball coach of the year. Cony’s T.J. Maines and Maranacook’s Rob Schmidt were also considered.

Success is nothing new at Winthrop — this was the fourth straight year the Ramblers had made it to at least the Class C South final.

This time, however, it was their turn to be the last team standing.

Obviously it was a challenge, but it couldn’t have gone better,” MacArthur said. “It really couldn’t have gone better.”

One of the biggest aspects to that challenge was fully utilizing the deep and talented cast MacArthur had on hand. He had star players in center Cam Wood and guard Jared McLaughlin. But he also had an assortment of role players, guards and forwards alike, and he knew Winthrop was at its most dangerous when he was able to plug the appropriate players into different situations and against different schemes.

You want to have depth, but you don’t want to have depth just to have depth. You don’t want to put kids in there where your play drops,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we had quality depth where we brought kids in that were still producing on the floor.”

The result was that players could play extensive minutes one game, and sparingly the next. Forwards Jevin Smith and Sam Figueroa would play often against a smaller team, and sharpshooting guard Cam Hachey would get the nod against a bigger team that made post play more difficult.

Players who didn’t see their minutes trimmed might see their roles change night to night, or even quarter to quarter. Nate LeBlanc could play on the wing one rotation, and then down in the post on the next if MacArthur wanted more speed and pressure on the floor.

That was the best part of being deep and having these kids buy into sharing minutes,” MacArthur said. “Every kid on my team was like a different hat. They all had different traits … and I thought we were able to use different approaches depending on how people were playing us.”

Perhaps the best example of that versatility came in the regional final, when the Ramblers faced a Hall-Dale team that had handed them their only loss. Bulldogs forward Ashtyn Abbott went off for 27 points and 16 rebounds in that game, and MacArthur knew his team was likely doomed in the rematch if Abbott had his way again.

MacArthur went with a new plan, having one of the state’s best big men in the 6-foot-8 Wood follow Abbott wherever he went. Wood’s size and length confounded Abbott early, and Winthrop jumped out to an early lead and never looked back en route to a 61-41 win.

“Ashtyn has killed us so many times,” MacArthur said after the game. “We decided to try something we’d never tried before.”

It was a theme of the season. Players prepared to sacrifice or adapt for the team, led by a coach who knew exactly how to use them.

They’re wonderful kids, they’re wonderful basketball players,” MacArthur said. “We get a small stipend to do this job, but this year I would have done it for free. It was really fun to be around them.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM

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