Isaiah Carson didn’t expect his starting backcourt to be injured and on the bench when his Springfield Wildcats opened conference play this basketball season. But with Greater Western Ohio Conference National East rival Beavercreek in town for the second game of the season, that’s what Carson faced.
He’s eager for senior Michael Wallace and junior Jay Rodgers to return to the lineup. But now he knows he has depth after the way junior David Sanford and sophomore Larry Stephens played in the Wildcats’ 55-47 victory Friday night.
Junior varsity players a year ago, Stephens came off the bench to score 10 points and Sanford scored nine. They also were part of an aggressive Springfield (2-0, 1-0) defense that forced turnovers in bunches at times.
“David Sanford did a phenomenal job and Larry Stephens came in and did an awesome job,” Carson said. “They came in and stepped up for us in a big way.”
Stephens made foul-line jumper to start the fourth quarter and tie the score at 41. With the Wildcats up 45-43, Sanford took a charge at midcourt to force another turnover caused by the full-court press. The Wildcats were in the middle of a 2-for-8 stretch at the foul line and clung to a 47-45 lead when Sanford drove the lane for a layup and a four-point lead with 1:10 to play.
Wallace had arthroscopic knee surgery Monday and is expected back in late December. Rodgers hurt his ankle in practice Thursday, but Carson said he could be back as early as Tuesday’s game at Miamisburg.
Beavercreek (0-2, 0-1) held several leads and led 30-28 at halftime. However, the Beavers scored their last field goal on a Jon Alessandro layup with 5:41 left. Alessandro, who scored 15 points, made four free throws late for the last of the Beavers’ points. The Beavers were also missing a key scorer in injured senior guard Evan Saylor.
“They picked up their pressure a little bit and their length gave us fits,” Beavers coach Mark Hess said. “I thought we looked a little passive and unsure at times. We just had some mental turnovers.”
Beavercreek won a thriller at home against Springfield at this time last year. This loss was tough, but Hess expects his team to improve.
“I really like our group,” he said. “We’ve got a strong senior group and some guys with some experience. You never want to be where you’re at your best in December. We’re still trying to fit some pieces together.”
While Springfield was missing key pieces in the backcourt, they still had senior Leonard Taylor, who has been starting games since his freshman year. He scored 17 points and made a key steal late in the game on the back end of the press.
“He played like a senior tonight,” Carson said. “He brought the energy, he fought hard down there. We don’t get this win without him playing like a senior.”
Taylor was just as happy as Carson to see the young guards help the team win. But he’s looking forward to a full roster soon.
“When Jay and Mike come back we’ll get healthy, we’ll get running, we’ll get going,” Taylor said. “And you’ll see the results.”