The Mustangs went 16-4 during the regular season a year ago, but fell to eventual district champion Clare 44-40 in the district semifinals to finish the year 16-5. Montabella finished 8-0 in the Mid-State Activities Conference to win the league title.
The Mustangs return six players from last year’s team including MSAC first team member Charley Helmer. The center also earned Class C all-state honorable mention last year.
Also returning are Jemikal Papendick (second team all-conference guard/forward), Travis Dunn (G), Chad Braman (G), Josh Daily (G/F) and Jeramee Gilman (F).
“We have a very athletic team with good size,” Montabella coach Cam Gatrell said. “We also have strong senior leadership.”
Gatrell returns as head coach for his 11th season and has a career record of 119-96.
Gatrell expects to feature good guard play to go along with the Mustangs’ size inside.
“Chad Braman and Travis Dunn are solid point guards,” he said. “Josh Daily is a good athlete that has the ability to score.”
Montabella is hoping to increase their defensive toughness and offensive execution this year. Gilman is one of the players that can help in the defensive category.
“Jeramee Gilman is a tough rebounder and a great defender,” Gatrell said.
The strength of the team will be inside with Papendick and Helmer. Helmer averaged 12.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks a year ago.
“Jemikal Papendick is a special athlete that understands the game,” Gatrell said. “ Charley Helmer is a gifted post player that has great hands and feet.”
With their recent success and returning starters the Mustangs consider themselves contenders.
“We should contend for a league and district championship,” Gatrell said.
The main contender in the MSAC will be Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart. The district tournament will consist of Carson City-Crystal, Ithaca, Beal City, St. Louis and Vestaburg. The Mustangs open the season with back-to-back home games against Lakeview (Dec. 5) and Vestaburg (Dec. 8).