For nearly three quarters on Friday the Springfield Wildcats were the best team in Ohio.
Springfield, showing the same enthusiasm and electricity that led it to the Division I regional finals last season, led the undefeated Wayne Warriors deep into the third quarter.
The defending state champions and No. 1 ranked team in Ohio did what they’ve done all season, though, using their depth to pull out a 64-61 victory in Springfield.
Despite the loss, the impressive effort could help Springfield at Sunday’s Division I sectional tournament draw. Area coaches have until noon Saturday to vote on the seeds.
Springfield led 37-26 with 6:30 left in the third quarter. Wayne used a technical foul on the Wildcats to start a 19-5 run that ended the quarter with the Warriors up 45-42. Wayne’s Rodrick Caldwell hit three straight free throws with no time left on the clock to break the tie.
Springfield trailed by as many as eight in the fourth before fighting back.
Danny Davis hit a three-pointer (50-45) and Michael McKay added another (52-50) with 5:30 to play.
Wayne led 62-59 on a pair of Rodrick Caldwell free throws, setting up a dramatic finish.
After McKay’s three-pointer bounced off the front of the rim, Wayne turned the ball over at the other end after getting called for touching the ball on the rim with 7.9 seconds.
Springfield’s Danny Davis hit two free throws with 5.4 seconds left (62-61), but Caldwell answered with two of his own (64-61) with 3.3 to go.
Springfield’s final shot, a half-court heave at the buzzer, was wide.
Wayne improved to 19-0 and 8-0 in the Greater Western Ohio Conference Central Division. Springfield dropped to 13-6 and 4-4 GWOC.
Next game: Springfield hosts Beavercreek at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday in a GWOC Central game. The Wildcats beat the Beavers 61-47 on Jan. 15.