Buoyed by pressure defense, ‘rejuvenated’ Springfield rolls into regionals

Wildcats force 29 turnovers to handle Elder; conference foe Centerville up next

The Springfield High School boys basketball team doesn’t have a nickname for its trademark full-court pressure defense.

After its effort against Cincinnati Elder on Saturday night, the Wildcats can probably start brainstorming. Chaos? Mayhem? Frenzy?

All three would suit Springfield just fine.

The Wildcats held Elder scoreless for the first nine minutes, forcing 29 turnovers en route to a 55-35 victory in a Division I District Final at University of Dayton Arena.


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“Defense is everything for us,” said Springfield senior David Sanford. “We try to pressure them and make them turn the ball over. We do a lot of run-and-jump. We create a lot of turnovers with that, just pressuring the ball. No matter who the player is, everybody gets pressure and that makes them uncomfortable.”

Ra’Heim Moss had a game-high 22 points and Sanford added 10 for Springfield (17-9), which won its third straight district title.

The victory sets up a third matchup with Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division rival Centerville (21-5), which beat Mason 49-43 in a district final game earlier in the day, in a D-I regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday night at the Xavier University Cintas Center in Cincinnati. The other semifinal will feature Lakota East (20-5) against defending D-I state champion Cincinnati Moeller (25-0) at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. The winners advance to the regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday in Cincinnati.

The Wildcats jumped out to a 9-0 first quarter lead, capped by a Larry Stephens 3-pointer with three minutes to go that forced an Elder timeout. Springfield extended its lead to 14-0 when Moss nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Ani Elliott hit two free throws with no time remaining to give Springfield a 29-12 halftime lead. The Panthers wouldn’t pull any closer than 12 points in the second half and never led at any point in the game. Bryson Merz had 12 points for Elder, which finished 14-11.

Springfield scored 28 points off of turnovers, including 16 in transition. In its 12 GWOC games this season, the Wildcats caused about 18 turnovers per game.

“We hit our spots (defensively),” said Wildcats coach Isaiah Carson. “We look rejuvenated. We look like we got our legs back under us, we’re flying around, we’re disciplined in our approach and we’re doing it without fouling. That’s the key.”

It never gets old cutting the nets down at UD Arena, Carson said.

“It’s a great feeling,” Carson said. “I’m proud of my guys. They played extremely hard, they’re buying in and we’re getting the results.”

The Wildcats and Elks shared the National East title this season, each winning on the other’s home court. They’ll meet for a third time in the postseason in hopes of advancing to the D-I Elite Eight.

“We’re ready,” Moss said. “We just have to go out there and get the job done.”

Centerville has won 17 straight since starting the season 4-5. Springfield beat the Elks 64-60 on Dec. 14. Centerville won the second matchup 60-44 on Feb. 1.

“Centerville has had a heck of a year,” Carson said. “We look forward to the challenge. It’s going to be a good one.”

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