Ripon’s Vander Plas to face dad’s former UWGB teammate, Bennett, in NCAA Tournament

The Ohio R-So. forward and the Virginia head coach share connections
The Ohio R-So. forward and the Virginia head coach share connections.
Published: Mar. 17, 2021 at 6:06 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - 30 years ago Tony Bennett and Dean Vander Plas helped lead the Green Bay Phoenix into March Madness. And now? Dean’s son - Ben Vander Plas - a Ripon High School product-- is taking his Ohio Bobcats up against Bennett’s Virginia squad in the first round Saturday night.

“We were like that would be crazy if we got matched up and sure enough we sure did,” Vander Plas said. “My phone started blowing up, a lot of people know the connections between the Bennett family and my family. It’s going to be a fun game for sure.”

“Makes me feel old!” Bennett said. “It was like, woah, wait a second! And they named Bennett, Ben’s full name is Bennett, they named him because my father. I am so happy for his success. Watching Ben play, and I like ‘Man! He does some of the things his dad did.’ Dean will get mad at me, but from what I have seen, Ben might be better.”

It should be a lot of fun. Virginia is still the defending national champion and Ben’s mom, dad, and brother were at the Final Four in Minneapolis 2 years ago to cheer Bennett’s boys on to victory.

“My family is kind of Virginia fans by default,” Vander Plas said. “Hopefully they will be wearing green for this game.”

UVA fell victim to an underdog 2 tournaments ago, and Ohio is certainly a great Cinderella story right now. They started just 7-6 this season, before winning 9 of their final 10 games, punching their ticket to the tourney from the 5 seed in the MAC conference tournament.

“We beat the 4 seed, the 1 seed, and the 2 seed,” Vander Plas said. “Underdogs the entire way. Our whole team just came in with so much confidence, playing free, and having fun playing basketball with each other. I think that has been a big part of it for us. And we are going to look forward to doing that on Saturday.”

Ben knows what it’s like to be in both roles, after guiding Ripon High School to an undefeated regular season en route the the state tournament a few years ago. That moment was special, as is this chance for one shining moment in March Madness.

“It’s really exciting,” Vander Plas said. “You grow up watching all these games and it is a dream for a lot of young basketball players. I can think back to high school, everybody in class watching games on their computers during school. And now I get to play in one, it’s a blessing and I am really looking forward to it.”

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