Springfield High School boys basketball coach Isaiah Carson knew the key to beating rival Centerville was playing disciplined — especially on the defensive end of the floor.
The Wildcats had to stay structured in the paint against Centerville 6-foot-9 post player Mo Njie, who stood four inches taller than any player on Springfield’s roster.
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Springfield’s game plan worked to perfection as the Wildcats beat Centerville 64-60 in a Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division game.
“We defended extremely well, not just in the full court, but in the half court,” Carson said. “(Centerville) had possessions of 1-to-2 minutes at a time. We were just locked in and did our job. I’m proud of our guys.”
RaHeim Moss scored a game-high 21 points, Jalan Minney added 13 and Larry Stephens and David Sanford each had 12 for the Wildcats. Springfield improved to 3-2 and took sole possession of first place in the division at 3-0.
“It was a great team win and puts us on top of the division where we want to be,” Carson said. “We’ve got to keep building from here. I thought we took a step in the right direction and I’m looking forward to what we’ve got coming up.”
Matt Pearce had 19 points for the Elks, who fell to 2-3 and 2-1 in the division. Davis Mumaw added 12 points and Njie scored 11.
“Springfield did a really good job of what they do well, attacking the basket and getting us into foul trouble,” said Elks coach Brook Cupps. “We struggled to really to get stops. We couldn’t keep them out of the lane, they shot a ton of free throws. It’s a credit to them. We’ve got to get better. We’re not good enough.”
The score was tied at 30 at the half. Pearce hit a 3-pointer with 10 seconds remaining in the third quarter to give the Elks a 49-48 lead. Springfield regained the lead on an old-fashioned 3-point play by Minney with 5:49 remaining.
Centerville tied the score at 58 on a putback by freshman Rich Rolf with two minutes remaining.
Minney and Sanford each made two free throws to give the Wildcats a four-point lead with about 30 seconds remaining. Centerville cut the lead to 3 with 12 seconds remaining, but couldn’t pull any closer.
Springfield went 10-for-15 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
“You’ve got to hit free throws and take care of the ball, especially at the end of games,” Carson said. “That’s exactly what we did tonight.”
Moss had 14 of the 21 points in the first half.
“He was attacking the basket and was just very control,” Carson said. “He’s a stud. He’s the best player in this league and he showed that tonight.”
Njie, the Elks’ 6-9 post player, was in foul trouble most of the game and fouled out with 2:36 remaining.
Centerville must improve defensively in order to win close games, especially against a team as talented as Springfield, Cupps said.
“We’ve got to be able to consistently get stops,” he said. “Right now, we can’t do that, even against Springfield who we know wants to drive it. They were still able to drive it. You’ve got to be able to take something away.”