Springfield to face Elder in districts for second straight season

Springfield’s RaHeim Moss (middle) led the Wildcats with 19 points. Prolific Prep (Calif.) defeated Springfield 69-50 in the Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop at Trent Arena on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

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Springfield’s RaHeim Moss (middle) led the Wildcats with 19 points. Prolific Prep (Calif.) defeated Springfield 69-50 in the Premier Health Flyin’ to the Hoop at Trent Arena on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

The Springfield High School boys basketball team is getting used to practicing well into March.

The Wildcats have advanced to the Division I district tournament — the state’s final 32 — each of the past five seasons. They’ve advanced to the regionals three times during that span.

“It’s always nice to practicing around this time, playing around this time,” said Springfield coach Isaiah Carson. “It’s a good feeling.”

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This year, they’ll face a familiar opponent. The Wildcats (16-9) will play Cincinnati Elder (14-10) in a D-I district final game at 9 p.m. Saturday at the University of Dayton Arena.

A year ago, the Wildcats beat Elder 51-45 to win its third district championship in four seasons.

This year, the Panthers upset fourth-seeded Cincinnati Oak Hills in the sectional semifinals, then beat Sycamore 56-42 in overtime to advance to the district finals. They finished second in the Greater Catholic League South Division behind unbeaten Moeller, the defending D-I state champion.

“You’ve got to give Elder credit. They’ve played extremely well down the stretch,” Carson said. “In tournament time, you want to be playing your best toward that part of the season. They’re in a good place right now and we’re in a good place right now. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

»RELATED: Boys basketball district schedule

The Panthers will play a typical GCL brand of basketball, Carson said. They’re led by junior guard Willard Cluxton (11.4 points, 3.1 assists per game) and senior guard Aidan Byrne (8.9 points per game). Defensively, they’re allowing 46.9 points per game.

“They’re going to make you work, make you defend for a minute or two per possession until they get what they want,” Carson said. “That’s just how they play, but we can play that way, too. We played a lot of opponents like that.”

Springfield has played six of the remaining 32 teams in the state — Centerville, Fairmont, Hilliard Davidson, Moeller, Pickerington Central and Pickerington North. The Wildcats also played Trotwood-Madison, who advanced to the regional semifinals in D-II on Thursday night.

Carson ramped up the schedule to have the Wildcats ready for the postseason.

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“We’re not afraid to play anybody, any time, any place, anywhere,” Carson said. “We’re definitely tournament ready. We’ve shown so far. We’ve shown it the last five years and we hope to keep it going.”

The Wildcats are led by seniors Ra’Heim Moss (18.0 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.9 steals per game) and David Sanford (13.7 points, 3.4 assists per game).

“They’ve been consistent and steady,” Carson said. “That’s why we’ve been able to stick with things the way we have. They both have experience, they’ve both been there. They’re showing these young guys how to do it.”

Each year different seniors step up to show the younger players what it takes to play into March, he said.

“That’s why the program has continued to grow and continued to successfully be at the regionals year-in, year-out,” Carson said.


SATURDAY’S GAME

What: Division I district boys basketball final, Springfield (16-9) vs. Cincinnati Elder (14-10)

When: 9 p.m.

Where: University of Dayton Arena, 1801 S. Edwin C. Moses Blvd., Dayton

Next: The Springfield-Elder winner will advance to the regional semifinals Wednesday at Xavier University’s Cintas Center, facing either Centerville or Mason at 8 p.m.

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