Springfield girls basketball team dedicates first victory to late assistant coach

Springfield High School freshman Brooke Nelson drives to the hoop during their game against Shawnee on Nov. 20 in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Name Test

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Springfield High School freshman Brooke Nelson drives to the hoop during their game against Shawnee on Nov. 20 in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

For the second straight year, the Springfield High School girls basketball program was dealt an unexpected blow just weeks before the season began.

On Oct. 2, Wildcats assistant coach Joe Hampton died unexpectedly at the age of 49.

“It was a blow,” said Wildcats coach Kawambee Gaines. “This was a man who truly cared about the young ladies to the point where a lot of them called him ‘Uncle Joe.’ He was more than a coach.”

The Wildcats snapped an 11-game losing streak in their season opener on Nov. 20, beating Shawnee 51-15 and dedicating the win to Coach Joe.

“It’s been tough,” Gaines said. “You’re coaching kids and you don’t know what their thoughts are and you’re trying to hold yourself together. They’ve given me strength with their efforts and their love. They’re saying, ‘We’re going to do this for Coach Joe’ and I see it in their actions. I’m happy about that and I know he’s happy about that as well.”

Hampton, a 1990 South grad, was the starting point guard at South when Gaines was a sophomore. He eventually wore Hampton’s No. 10 after he graduated.

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Springfield High School sophomore T'hanna Eubanks drives past Shawnee's Lydia Spitzer during their against Shawnee on Nov. 20 in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Name Test

Springfield High School sophomore T'hanna Eubanks drives past Shawnee's Lydia Spitzer during their against Shawnee on Nov. 20 in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Name Test

caption arrowCaption
Springfield High School sophomore T'hanna Eubanks drives past Shawnee's Lydia Spitzer during their against Shawnee on Nov. 20 in Springfield. Michael Cooper/CONTRIBUTED

Credit: Name Test

Credit: Name Test

Years later, Gaines and Hampton began coaching girls basketball. Hampton was the first person Gaines called after he got the job at Springfield, asking his former teammate to join his staff two years ago.

“He’d see a play and call me and say it would be great for this player or that player,” Gaines said. “He always felt every kid had something. It was something that really touched me as a coach and as a person. He really cared about people.”

Hampton was also great at keeping Gaines’ spirits up through his first two seasons with the program. He preached patience, reminding Gaines the team would have a strong mixture of youth and experience coming back this season. Hampton’s words rang true as 11 players scored in their season-opening victory against Shawnee.

“It was like the truth coming to light,” Gaines said. “It was like he spoke it into existence. He kept telling me every day, ‘Just wait, we’ve got a good group coming’.”

The Wildcats return five seniors — Camya Calloway, Carissa Davis, Lauren Tate and sisters Tymeerah De’Armond and Tymarah De’Armond.

Junior Terianna Owens and sophomores T’hanna Eubanks, Gabby Moore and Tahjie Clark-Crowley are also back this winter.

The Wildcats have also received a boost from four freshmen: Brooke Nelson, Carly Nelson, Mykaila Ramsey and Meredith Mitchell.

“We’ve got a lot of different players who are contributing,” Gaines said. “They’re doing it at practice. Our practices have been some of the best practices that I’ve been around in high school because it’s competitive. Everybody is fighting and trying to show they want playing time. It’s fun to coach. You feel good about going to practice when you’ve got kids who are competing every day. I’m really enjoying it.”

The Wildcats hope to be more competitive in the rugged Greater Western Ohio Conference. The Wildcats open conference play Wednesday at Centerville.

“There were some games we were in early, but we didn’t finish the deal,” Gaines said. “This year, I really feel we have the talent to really compete. My goal is to win some games.”

Gaines, a South grad, is also a member of the football coaching staff. He’s learned from Wildcats coach Maurice Douglass that winning is a process that doesn’t happen overnight.

“It’s going to be a process to get where we want to go, but we’re for sure going to get there,” Gaines said.

A year ago, the Wildcats lost senior Destiny Wells, who died in a car accident in August of 2020. Both Wells and Hampton will be remembered for a long time, Gaines said.

“His legacy is going to be a part of what we do until I’m gone,” Gaines said. “Both of them are very special to what we are doing.”

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