Spencer Steele and Nate Scott, both seniors, are playing for the Winthrop basketball team despite dealing with injuries. Scott battled back from a broken leg suffered during football season, while Steele is playing with a torn ACL.

WINTHROP — Winthrop will have eight seniors suiting up for Saturday night’s showdown against defending champion George Stevens Academy in the Class C state championship.

“It’s certainly a privilege to know that this will be our last game no matter what,” guard Nate Scott said. “We’re certainly all excited, and focused.”

The Ramblers are particularly excited because they’ll have eight seniors in uniform. They could just as easily “only” have six.

Any senior athlete dreams of the last game of their high school career being the most important one they’ve ever played. None of the senior Ramblers are taking this opportunity for granted, least of all Scott and teammate Spencer Steele.

Scott started the season in a walking boot after fracturing his left leg in the second quarter of Winthrop/Monmouth’s D South championship football loss to Lisbon.

Of the pair, he’s the healthier one. Steele, a forward, has played with a torn ACL in his left knee for most of the season.

Both are vital reserves for coach Todd MacArthur and each has played a part in the Ramblers’ revitalization at the defensive end.

“I love our depth. We really wear teams out, and when you get two guys like that back, it just adds to it,” MacArthur said. “It shows a lot of determination, grit and sacrifice on their part.”

“I mean, Spencer should be done. But he’s not going to let his senior year and his opportunity to win a state championship just go away with that,” MacArthur said. “Nate battled back and rehabbed just to get back to be part of this.”

After talking with doctors, Scott was confident he could make it back in time to contribute during basketball season. He went from a walking boot to light jogging to gentle cutting while he rehabbed his leg. He returned to the lineup in mid-January, playing about one minute in a game against Carrabec and was just starting to feel 100 percent physically when the tournament started.

“It’s feeling good. I’m really happy with the way it healed,” Scott said. “Probably in the last two or three weeks I’ve really been able to go out and feel like myself as a s basketball player again and have that speed and quickness that I used to have before I broke it.”

Steele’s knee problems started during the summer, when he strained the MCL. He went down with the ACL injury two games into the basketball season, but doctors believe it may have also been damaged when the MCL injury occurred.

Not willing to accept that his final basketball season might be a lost cause, Steele researched other athletes who played with a torn ACL. He talked with doctors and MacArthur and developed a way to manage the injury.

That includes wearing a large brace on his left leg, icing it frequently and communicating with MacArthur about how he feels and adjusting his practice and game regimen accordingly. 

He returned to the lineup three weeks after the injury, but the pain, which at times can be excruciating, has never gone away.

“The soreness is just kind of there. It has its good days and bad days,” said Steele, who will have knee surgery after the season. “I just try to handle however the pain level is that day and just kind of roll with it. I try to keep the swelling down and try to work out the muscles around it the best that I can and make sure I’m not exerting a lot of force on my knee.”

Given his team’s depth, MacArthur could be extra cautious with when and how to use both of his recovering reserves.

“We wanted them for when it mattered most,” MacArthur said. “I’m not trying to diminish anything in the regular season, but we had a mindset that we wanted to achieve some goals and get to this game, and we couldn’t have done it without those two.”

The Ramblers will take a 21-0 record into the title game in large part because orf their defense. MacArthur wasn’t pleased with his defense in mid-season, but Winthrop is peaking now, allowing 37.7 points per game in the tournament. Having Scott’s ball pressure and angling at the top of defense and Steele’s athleticism and quickness,  even on just one good knee, in addition to the leadership and experience each brings, has been key.

“If I want a defensive unit on the floor, those two are going to be on the floor,” MacArthur said. “Those two guys, if I need a stop, I’m going to them.”

Steele and Scott are glad they’re able to answer his call and help Winthrop’s quest for its first gold ball since 2008.

“I appreciate it a lot more now because I might not have been here,” Steele said. “But even if I wasn’t playing, I’d be just as happy, just as excited for my teammates to go out there and try to win a gold ball.”

“It would be awesome to have one. We’ve been thinking about it since we were in second and third grade,” Steele said. “When you play sports, that always one of your ultimate goals. To be able to translate all of the hard work we do in practice and off the court and have something to show for it would be great.”

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