Girls basketball: Springfield off to strong start under Toliver

SPRINGFIELD — After 29 years of coaching at dozens of high schools throughout southwest Ohio, Terry Toliver’s closet is full of polo shirts.

Toliver’s career includes stops at North, South, Springfield, London, Kenton Ridge, Emmanuel Christian, Trotwood-Madison and Xenia.

“I’ve been everywhere,” he said. “I’ve got every polo from here to Cincinnati. I’ve got about 20 different polo shirts.”

After a three-year stint at Middletown, the 1992 South grad is back as the head coach for the Springfield High School girls program — and the the Wildcats off to one of their best starts in recent memory.

Springfield beat Wayne 57-36 in Greater Western Ohio Conference action on Wednesday night in front of a large crowd at Springfield High School.

“It’s special because the community is gravitating to the girls basketball program,” Toliver said. “We had a nice crowd tonight. (Springfield athletic director Mike Dellapina) and I joked about how we might need to open up the other side of the stands because it’s never happened for (girls basketball). The community is grasping the program with me being a community guy for 30 years. Most of the older players from either South or North, I coached them and some of the players are their kids.”

Senior Gabby Moore and junior Jaela Johnson each scored 14 points and sophomore Milly Portis scored 12 points as the Wildcats improved to 3-2 and 1-2 in the GWOC.

“The girls are playing hard and they’re committed to what we’re trying to do, what we’re selling,” Toliver said. “It’s the three C’s — communicate, compete and celebrate. You’ve got to learn how to compete before you can celebrate.”

The Wildcats let 23-18 at the half, but outscored the Warriors 36-18 in the second half to seal the victory. The energy in the gym was just different than normal, Moore said.

“We came out and the energy was high,” Moore said. “We had a few lows but we picked it up and we turned it around. Usually, in our losses, I tell them if we keep our heads up and we keep playing, we can come back from that stuff. Tonight was living proof of that.”

Moore and T’yana Eubanks are the only two seniors in Springfield’s program. Moore couldn’t stop smiling after beating one of Springfield’s biggest rivals, especially the effect the win had on her younger teammates.

“This game I hope sparked a lot of belief in them and really showed them the potential that I’ve been telling them that we have,” Moore said.

It was just the third time Springfield had beaten Wayne in girls basketball since the school merger in 2008. Springfield previously beat Wayne in both the 2009-2010 season and the 2021-2022 season.

“It was a program win and when I mean program, I mean seventh grade on up,” Toliver said. “Our seventh and eighth graders are with us all the time and they were at the game. It was a significant win for us.”

It helps that the “cupboard isn’t as bare as it has been,” Toliver said. The Wildcats have one of its most talented young rosters in years, he said.

“I’m not walking into a situation where there’s no talent,” Toliver said. “Unfortunately some of the coaches before me have walked in and the cupboard was bare, just being honest. We’ve got talent and we’ve got young talent. We only have two seniors. It’s an uphill battle because they’re learning the way I want them to play.”

In the preseason, the Wildcats scrimmaged several powerhouse programs, including Columbus Africentric and Cincinnati Princeton. The Wildcats have to learn what it takes to be a championship program, especially in the competitive GWOC, he said.

“They’ve seen it, but you’ve got to believe it,” Toliver said. “In order to be able to beat those teams, you’ve got to be in the fire, you’ve got to practice hard, you’ve got to know what championship practices look like, how championship programs function. We’ll get back at it tomorrow, put Wayne behind us and get ready (for Miamisburg).”

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