Top-ranked Wayne works OT to dodge Springfield in battle of unbeatens

Falling to Springfield twice in one season doesn’t cut it at Wayne. But that’s what happened last season.

“We had to redeem ourselves, no doubt,” assured Wayne senior L’Christian “Blue” Smith.

Wayne did just that, hanging a 65-62 overtime defeat on Springfield in Wednesday night’s showdown of unbeaten and state-ranked Greater Western Ohio Conference boys high school basketball powers.

Wayne (13-0) is the state’s top-ranked Division I team for the second straight week. Springfield (13-1) vaulted to No. 6.

This was a much-anticipated and delayed matchup of the area’s two best D-I programs, and it won’t be the last. The game was postponed due to a winter storm less than two weeks ago. The regular-season rematch will be at Springfield on Feb. 9.

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Both are sure to be top seeds in the upcoming sectional and could play a third game as early as a district final. What is certain is Wayne sits also sits atop the GWOC National East at 7-0 and Springfield slips to second at 6-1.

In the sellout crowd were college football coaches from the University of Cincinnati (Luke Fickell), Louisville and Kentucky, all to see uncommitted Leonard Taylor of Springfield. There were plenty of high-profile alums mixing about, too, including the Landers brothers, Wayne grads Trey (Dayton basketball) and Robert (Ohio State football), and Wayne grad Marcus Freeman, a Cincinnati defensive coordinator who huddled with Taylor afterward.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Wayne coach Nate Martindale said. “We had a packed house and great support. It’s what high school basketball is all about, especially on a Wednesday night. What can be any better than this?”

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A Deshon Parker off-balance leaner in the lane with four second left in regulation put Wayne up 60-59. But the Warriors inexplicably fouled Springfield’s best player on this night, Raheim Moss. Ruled an intentional foul, all Moss had to do was make both for the Wildcats to win. He missed the first and converted the second to force OT.

“I knew time was winding down,” said Parker, who led Wayne with 15 points. “I had to go make a move. I went up and threw up a floater and it went in.”

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So did Rashad McKee’s 3-pointer from the wing and two free throws by Smith with 18.7 seconds left in OT. Springfield answered in OT with only Taylor rebound bucket. His final 3-point heave at the buzzer clanked off the rim.

“It looked good; it just didn’t fall for me,” Taylor said. “An undefined moment.”

Darius Quisenberry added 13 points, Smith 13 and McKee 11 for Wayne, which also dodged host Trotwood-Madison 90-87 in double-OT late last month.

Moss was outstanding in leading Springfield with 25 points. Sam Towns added 13 points and Taylor 10.

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It was the fourth game in six days for Springfield, all on the road. Springfield defeated Belmont (8-2), the surprise of the Dayton City League, 65-53 on Tuesday. The Wildcats return home on Friday for their fifth game in seven days, against Springboro.

“We ain’t got nothin’ to hang our heads over,” Springfield coach Isaiah Carson said. “We lost to a good team. We’ll get better for it. We played our hearts out and had our chances. We just came up a little bit short.”

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