The postseason for Springfield? ‘We try to be better under pressure’

The matchups that lie ahead on the bracket would be easy to peek at for the Springfield Wildcats.

Maybe a sectional final rematch with Sidney? A district final against a Cincinnati team? Another shot at Centerville or Moeller in the regionals?

»RELATED: Saturday’s high school scoreboard

But head coach Isaiah Carson has his second-seeded Wildcats focused on the old one-game-at-at-time idea. They started fast and did what they were supposed to do Saturday in routing No. 20 Tecumseh 65-26 on opening night of the Division I sectional at Vandalia-Butler.

“We flew around and we defended,” Carson said. “If we’re not going to do anything else, we’re going to defend in this program. And that’s what we did tonight.”

A 3-pointer by Larry Stephens and a dunk by RaHeim Moss were the only plays the Wildcats (14-9) needed to get started for an 18-3 lead after one quarter. On defense, the Wildcats made the Tecumseh guards feel like they were trapped in a phone booth with double-teams. They altered shots any time the Arrows (4-19) got near the basket. The Wildcats were not about to take it easy and just get by.

David Sanford scored 15 points and Moss 14 to lead the Wildcats. Raymans Cole added 10 and Stephens had nine.

Troy sits on the next line on the bracket. The Trojans (10-12) are seeded No. 18 but closed the season with four straight victories following an eight-point loss to Sidney and a four-point loss to Vandalia-Butler. Will the Wildcats be as focused in round two? Carson nods his head and says, “Absolutely.” They’ve got his attention.

One thing that makes the Wildcats play hard is the competition for playing time. Carson has started several combinations this season and said he feels like he has more than five starters. But for about the past 10 games he has settled on Moss, Stephens, Sanford, Cole and Jeff Tolliver.

“Those guys get us started off very well, they’ve got good chemistry and they play hard,” Carson said. “They play the hardest. If you’re in the lineup, you’re one of the guys that plays the hardest nine times out of 10.”

But Carson is not soft on his bench. That’s why he doesn’t hesitate to turn to Jalan Minney, Ani Elliot, Jordan Howard and Ty Brown. Howard missed Saturday’s game with a knee injury. Carson isn’t sure when Howard will be ready to play.

“There’s guys that’s worthy as well and they show it when they come in the game,” Carson said. “But I need it to be consistent, and when those first five come out there they’re consistent.

“It doesn’t take one through five. It takes one through eight, nine, 10 those guys that play those big minutes. We’ve got nine or 10 guys that we’re very confident in, that know the system, that does the job very well. We’re feeling good about our chances.”

Despite working hard not to look ahead, Carson and his staff have not ignored the fact that the tournament was coming. They played one of the most difficult schedules in the state with the purpose of being ready for the tournament. That’s why they got a No. 2 seed with a 13-9 regular-season record.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Carson said. “We try to be better under pressure. .”

About the Author