Kenton Ridge boys basketball coach Kris Spriggs was back from the locker room Tuesday night, talking about his team’s 68-58 loss to Springfield while packing up the scoreboard console. He’s also the athletic director, so putting things away after a game is part of his job.
Another, more important, part of his job is to console his players after a difficult loss, which he had just done. The Cougars, fighting to be a .500 team, weren’t supposed to challenge the area’s No. 4 Division I team in the prep power rankings.
“It hurt – they’re upset in the locker room,” Spriggs said. “But I’m probably more proud of them than any game we’ve played this year.”
No doubt the Cougars (8-10) soon had their thoughts on Wednesday night’s game at Greenon, but they will always remember the night when they could have scored the big upset.
“Our kids played excellent,” Spriggs said. “We talked about just going out and competing and going out there and see what happens.”
For three quarters, the Cougars were in control. They were aggressive in attacking the basket, going after rebounds and challenging shots. Springfield’s quickness allowed for many high-percentage shots, but the Cougars didn’t just stand and watch.
The Cougars fell behind 14-7 in the first quarter before going on a 16-2 run to take a 23-16 lead halfway through the second quarter. The spark came from backup freshman guard Jordan Bailey.
Bailey’s first 3-pointer tied the score at 14. His second put the Cougars up 26-18. When halftime came, the Cougars led 32-27 and Bailey had 11 points.
Springfield (16-5) kept cutting its deficit to one possession in the third quarter and tied the score once. But the Cougars answered with a 3-pointer by Joseph Lacey, then a strong move inside by Corey Reed and free throws to take a 44-41 lead into the fourth quarter.
Springfield owned the fourth quarter with pressure defense, strong drives and finally some 3-pointers. A 12-2 run to start the quarter was fueled by junior guard Henry Alexander’s strong finishes at the rim. From there, the Wildcats cruised to a 27-point quarter.
“It was just a matter of time before they were going to cut loose,” Spriggs said. “Everything was going our way for three quarters, then the roles reversed.”
Springfield coach Isiah Carson was not in a consoling mood. He said he didn’t say much more to his team than, “Get dressed.”
“We just didn’t play well at all,” Carson said. “Very disappointed.”
The Wildcats finished 13-10 last year and lost a lot of these kinds of games. They were 2-3 against Central Buckeye Conference teams. This year they are 5-0 against the CBC and have been in the hunt for Central Division title of the Greater Western Ohio Conference. Still, the somewhat-young Wildcats have a habit of not playing a solid four quarters.
“We played well for about six minutes out of 32 minutes,” said Carson, who gave the Cougars credit for how well they played. “We wanted to take this game and set a tone and get ready for the tournament. We did a poor job of that tonight, and I’m concerned.”
Junior point guard Dae’Shawn Jackson expects the Wildcats to have more complete efforts at tournament time and get over the trend of lackluster first halves.
“I’m pretty sure once we get rolling it can keep rolling for us,” he said. “We didn’t come out intense, but the second half we always pick it up. So if we put two halves together we should be fine in the tournament.”