Fourth-quarter leads haven’t always held up for Springfield this season. But in his final home game, Ryan Minney resolved that blowing an 11-point lead to Fairmont wasn’t an option.
Minney was thrust into the point guard role when Dae’Shawn Jackson fouled out, so he had a talk with himself about how the final four minutes had to be played.
“I’ve been here before, so him fouling out I just knew that, OK, so now I have to step up, pick up the intensity level,” Minney said. “We’re going to win this game. We’re not going out like that, not my senior year.”
Minney and the Wildcats held on this time with just enough free throws to beat Fairmont 67-59 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference Central Division finale for both teams.
The Wildcats (13-9, 4-6) made 8 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter to allow Fairmont (5-17, 2-8) to rally from a 51-37 deficit to 61-56 with 1:07 left. From there, Minney made 5 of 6 free throws and Guy Victoria made 1 of 2 to hold off the Firebirds, who were led by Ben Van Oss’ 17 points and five 3-pointers.
The Wildcats might have had Jackson down the stretch, but his fourth foul should have been charged to John Carson. Jackson was nowhere near the play when Carson tried to take a charge. Soon afterward Jackson was called for an offensive foul and was finished with 4:26 left.
“Dae’Shawn’s no longer a sophomore and he’s our floor general,” Wildcats coach Isiah Carson said. “He’s varsity ready, he’s played 22 games now, so we need that guy in that stretch. But luckily we’ve got enough depth to back him up.”
Minney scored 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting, and Henry Alexander came off the bench to make 3-of-4 three-pointers and score 13 points.
Defense, however, is what put the Wildcats in control. Three steals and ensuing layups ignited a 13-0 run to start the second quarter that turned an 18-13 Fairmont lead into a 26-18 Springfield lead.
Sean Burroughs, the Wildcats’ 6-foot-6 senior center, was a factor with six blocked shots, 11 rebounds and seven points. Burroughs, who averages 5.4 blocks a game, responded to being benched in the second half Tuesday night after a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
“It was just me being silly and a lack of focus,” Burroughs said. “But I just refocused for a good week of practice, and we came back and executed the game plan.”