Springfield High School junior Raymans Cole finishes off a dunk during a Division I district final game against Elder on Saturday night at the University of Dayton Arena. The Wildcats won 55-35. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY MICHAEL COOPER

Springfield-Centerville Part 3: ‘It doesn’t get any better than that’

The Springfield High School boys basketball team is getting used to the bus ride to Xavier University.

The Wildcats have advanced to the Division I regional semifinals — typically held annually at Xavier’s Cintas Center in Cincinnati — each of the last three seasons and four of the last five years.

The trip means the Wildcats have accomplished at least one of their goals — winning a D-I district title and advancing to the final 16 in the state.

The Wildcats (17-9) used a frenetic full-court pressure defense to beat Elder 55-35 at University of Dayton Arena on Saturday.

»RELATED: Girls, boys basketball state, regional tourney pairings

The victory set up a third matchup with Greater Western Ohio Conference National East Division rival Centerville (21-5) in a D-I regional semifinal at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Cintas Center.

“This is what we’ve prepared for all season long,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said. “We’re excited to be one of the 16 teams still playing. We hope to be able to take advantage (of practice), get better and be ready for Wednesday.”

The other semifinal will feature Lakota East (20-5) against defending D-I state champion Cincinnati Moeller (25-0) at 5:30 p.m. The winners advance to the regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Springfield is seeking its first trip to the regional finals since 2015, where it fell to another GWOC rival and eventual state champion Wayne.

The Wildcats beat Centerville 64-60 on the road on Dec. 14. The Elks started the season 4-5, but have won 17 straight, including a road victory at Springfield 60-44 on Feb. 1.

After re-watching the film of the loss, Carson said he was “disgusted” by his team’s performance. The Wildcats tied the game midway through the fourth quarter at 44, but wouldn’t score again as the Elks finished the game on a 16-0 run. Springfield was fouling on defense and began taking bad shots offensively, he said.

»RELATED: Catholic Central squares off against MAC in regional semis

“We were in a bad place at that point of the season,” Carson said. “We forgot our identity. We forgot what made us 9-0 in the league before that point. We were playing unselfish, we were playing extremely hard and relying on defense. We just lost our identity. It just wasn’t us.”

At that time, the Wildcats saw two of its four seniors leave the team to attend college early. Michael Brown-Stephens (Minnesota) and Isaiah Gibson (Kentucky) both earned football scholarships and left high school in December to begin classes early.

Springfield lost three of four games during that stretch, including a triple overtime loss at Wayne on Feb. 8. Since that loss, Springfield has won five of its last six games.

“I feel good about our chances, we just have to come out and execute our game plan,” Carson said. “We figured out our identity and we’re playing even harder than before. I’m excited about our chances.”

Springfield and Centerville shared the GWOC National East title. Carson expects the atmosphere to be electric.

“Any time you play a conference opponent three times in one year, you know it’s going to be a heck of a basketball game,” Carson said. “We won on each other’s floors — that’s not normal either. This is bragging rights. With the regional on the line, it doesn’t get any better than that.”

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