The officials didn’t ask Springfield’s Jalan Minney if the banging drums and cymbals distracted him when he missed a free throw with 28 seconds left. After the game Minney said he didn’t notice.
But rules are rules.
By rule, overzealous drumming by the Springboro pep band meant Minney got to shoot the free throw again. With every Springboro fan screaming, he made it and the next one for a two-point lead. Then Wildcats’ senior guard David Sanford stole an inbounds pass at midcourt with five seconds left to seal a 34-32 victory for first-place Springfield (10-4, 8-0 GWOC) and avoid the upset.
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Wildcats’ coach Isaiah Carson didn’t ask for the second chance. He said he was worried more about getting Minney to concentrate on his second chance after his team got its biggest break of the night.
“It’s Springfield — we don’t get a lot of breaks,” Carson said and laughed.
It was a break that no one in the gym had probably witnessed before. After a long discussion — first with each other — then with Springboro coach Kevin Youker, it was clear that Minney would get a do-over on the first shot of the two-shot foul.
“I knew they were probably going to give it to them because when they started talking I saw them hold up two [fingers],” Youker said. “And he capitalized on some noise interference and made the play.”
Springboro called time out with 10 seconds left to set up a shot against Springfield’s 1-3-1 zone. But with five seconds left and Springfield suddenly in a man-to-man, Youker called another timeout to change his plan. But Sanford stole the inbounds pass to end the game. Sanford said he took his cue from the inbounder.
“He faked it, and I knew he was going to come back so I just jumped the pass,” he said.
Sanford’s defensive save did not surprise Carson, who stood 10 feet from the play.
“Very fitting for a tough, hard-nosed kid that works his tail off,” Carson said. “He’s probably the best defender in the area, one of them in the state for sure. And that’s what he does — he defends at a high level.”
For Springboro (5-10, 1-7) it was another difficult loss to accept. The Panthers have led with two to three minutes to play in seven of their losses.
“We don’t make plays,” Youker said. “We miss free throws, we turn the ball over, whatever. We could have easily been 10-4.”
The Panthers, behind 20 points from Garrett Powell, almost pulled off the upset of the season in the GWOC by packing in their 2-3 zone to stop layups and make the Wildcats win with jump shots. It almost worked. When Springfield led 8-0 Youker didn’t change his plan even after the Wildcats held the ball for the final 2:45 of the first quarter. After more slow basketball in the second quarter, the Wildcats led 11-9 at halftime.
“It was kind of frustrating,” Minney said. “I think when we held the ball for that two minutes I think that got us out of our groove.”
Springboro led most of the third quarter. The fourth quarter had four lead changes before RaHeim Moss tied the score at 32 on a short jumper with 1:06 left.
“We didn’t execute the first half for the most part,” Carson said. “We weren’t hitting the spots that we needed to. Once we finally focused in we started getting the results we wanted.
“We woke up late and we’re lucky to come out with a win today.”
The news was not all good for the Wildcats. Starting guard Larry Stephens left the game early with a broken finger.