Springfield needed to be at its high-end best to have any chance against mighty Cincinnati Moeller. There’s always next season.
Moeller flexed its might yet again, this time a 65-44 defeat of Springfield in Wednesday night’s boys high school basketball Division I regional semifinals at Xavier’s University’s Cintas Center.
Moeller (24-3), last year’s D-I state runner-up, will return to the Cintas on Friday night and play Wayne (25-1) in the regional final, with that winner advancing to next week’s season-ending state final four at Columbus. Wayne advanced by dodging Cincinnati Princeton 56-49 in the doubleheader nightcap.
The defeat closed outstanding four-year runs by Springfield seniors Leonard Taylor and Michael Wallace and newcomer Derrick Robinson-Verse. The Wildcats had three district title teams and played in D-I regionals the past two seasons.
“It’s been great and I was glad I was able to be a part of it,” said Taylor, a 6-foot-6 center who signed with Cincinnati to play football. “I’m just glad I was a Wildcat.”
Moeller already had beaten host Springfield 56-39 in the regular season and it was more of the same in this Sweet 16 matchup.
Wright State signee and Moeller senior Jeremiah Davenport was unstoppable, hitting 9 of 13 shots for a game-high 25 points to go with six rebounds, four assists and two steals.
And when Davenport wasn’t producing, 6-10 senior center Jaxson Hayes (Texas) stepped up with 10 points, six rebounds and four blocks.
Moeller stayed in its comfort zone throughout, hitting a sizzling 25 of 37 shots (67.6 percent) and blocking a half-dozen shots. The Crusaders haven’t lost to an Ohio team.
“We took away what they had to do,” said Moeller coach Carl Kremer.
Jajuan Rodgers hit 6 of 9 shots to lead Springfield with 15 points. RaHeim Moss added 11 points and five rebounds.
In contrast, Springfield hit just 17 of 47 shots (36.2 percent) and was 5 of 22 in 3-pointers (22.7 percent). That inaccuracy carried over in free throws, too (5 of 12).
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That lack of shooting touch wasn’t the Wildcats’ only problem. Early turnovers plagued Springfield just as much as Moeller’s 10-rebound advantage.
“That was a big thing,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said. “You gotta give Moeller credit, those guys did an amazing job. We just didn’t get it done and we got beat up pretty good.”
Springfield finishes the season at 21-5. The Wildcats were a combined 82-25 over the last four seasons and won 20 games three times.
There should be more of the same in coming seasons. Springfield returns nine players who suited up against Moeller.
“Moeller, those are guys we’ve been clashing with the last couple years,” Carson said. “We want our program to be up there on that level. For us to be able to compete with those guys is a very good thing. We’re going to remember this feeling and come back strong next year. We’ll be back.”
Wallace has yet to sign but Carson insists “Michael will play at the next level. We’re still figuring that one out.”
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Taylor will visit UC this weekend to “make a fit, get in a groove and see what’s up.”
He also had a message for Springfield’s many returning players for next season.
“They better make sure they take care of business,” he said.
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