Springfield coach Isaiah Carson summed up the challenge against Kettering Fairmont — more specifically, against senior forward Kei’Vante Tanner — this way:
“That’s a grown man. I think he probably goes to school during the day and has a third-shift job at night,” Carson said of the 6-foot 2 standout who leads the Greater Western Ohio Conference in both scoring (22.2) and rebounds (12.2).
The last time Springfield played Fairmont, a 72-67 setback on Dec. 19, the Wildcats found themselves struggling at 2-3.
A return to aggressive defense has since helped the Wildcats win nine of their last 11 games, including four straight. Stretching the streak to six will truly be impressive. In addition to Fairmont (14-2) at 7:30 tonight, Springfield travels to Wayne (14-3) on Tuesday.
“It’s league games so league games are always the toughest, especially (in our division),” Carson said. “We expect to compete at a high level and give ourselves a chance to win. We feel pretty good about how we’ve been playing lately. Just trying to keep it rolling.”
Carson credits senior Dae’Shawn Jackson’s leadership, junior Darius Harper’s interior defense and sophomore Danny Davis’ instant offense as key reasons for the resurgence. The addition of 6-5 junior Jeremiah Ward, now eligible to play after transferring from Shawnee, adds length to the Wildcats’ inside game.
“Man, he’s been dynamite,” Carson said of Jackson. “He’s been setting our tempo, attacking extremely well and defending at a high level. Ever since that Flyin’ to the Hoop game (23 points, eight rebounds) Harper’s been incredible defensively and rebounding. He stepped it up a whole ‘nother notch. And Danny Davis has been aggressive. That’s key.”
Perhaps never more so this season than the Wildcats’ next two games, especially against Tanner. He scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in the first meeting.
“We’re going go guard him as a whole (team). We can’t put one guy on him. We’re going to have to do that by committee,” Carson said. “He’s a heck of a player and a good kid. He’s been a joy to watch and we’re going to take on that challenge.”