Springfield guard Larry Stephens shoots over Lebanon during the first half of Friday night’s 63-46 GWOC victory at Lebanon. Stephens scored seven points to help the Wildcats improve to 6-2 and 5-0 in the GWOC. Jeff Gilbert/CONTRIBUTED

Boys basketball: Wildcats defense gets even better with addition

The Wildcats have been winning without Raymans Cole, but finally having him on the floor for the first time since the preseason scrimmages made head coach Isaiah Carson smile after his team defeated Lebanon 63-46.

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“Ray Cole came in and flew around,” Carson said. “Nobody flies around like that guy does. He brought some really, really good energy tonight. He looked like he’s played in every game this year.”

Cole is a junior and was ready to get his first important varsity minutes this year. But he broke a hand in practice and wasn’t cleared to play until this week. He didn’t start Friday but he played starter’s minutes or close to it.

“It was very exciting,” Cole said. “I was glad to help my team out and get the rebounds.”

Bringing the ball up the floor against the Wildcats’ defense requires quick and good decisions. They will trap the ball when you get near half court or just over it. The other three players are looking to intercept the pass out of the trap. When the turnovers happen, the Wildcats go the other way and usually score quickly. After Jalan Minney opened the game with a 3-pointer, RaHeim Moss stole the ball twice and dunked both times for a 7-0 lead. The defense kept the pressure on and the lead was 19-9 after the first quarter. Another similar spurt to close the half pushed the lead to 30-18.

“We flew around and defended at a very high level,” Carson said.

By the five-minute mark of the third quarter the Wildcats led 46-23. Moss scored 17 points, Minney 13 and David Sanford 11.

Lebanon’s best offense was its seven 3-pointers. Luke Arnold led the Warriors with 14 points.

Carson likes the direction his team is headed, but he is talking to his team about building championship habits.

“Just missed layups and little silly stuff,” he said. “You work really hard to get steals and then you have to convert them. The good teams convert 90 percent of them. And right now we’re not converting enough.”

Carson is also challenging his team to continue to improve its half-court offense. As much as they score off turnovers, there are many times they must run offense and get a good shot. So far the Wildcats are showing patience to get shots off penetration and open 3-pointers.

The Wildcats (6-2, 5-0 GWOC National East) are at home Tuesday against Fairmont and Friday against Wayne in difficult matchups in their conference division.

“If we can clean up these championship habits, we can play with anybody in the state of Ohio,” Carson said. “I look for us to show that.”

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